Commandline Options

Common sytax styles

Just present (0 values)

Used for options having no value. The typical effect of specifying the option includes setting a property to true or incrementing a value

Sample usage:

  • --xml sets an internal flag ensuring that the output is in XML format - used in SVN this way
  • -q turns the output to quiet mode (important messages only) - used in CVS this way

Simple (1 value)

The most typical way of using options.


  • value comes in next argument: -r 219 or --revision 219
  • value is right after shortName, using it as a prefix: -r219
  • value assigment after longName: --revision=210

Property assignment (2 values)

Often used to specify properties.


  • -DpropertyName=propertyValue - used by java, javac, ant, maven, ...
  • --set-property propertyName propertyValue

Multiple values

Not very frequent case, but possible - each value then comes from separate argument.


  • --jdbc h2 tcp://localhost/testdb sa sapassword

Related features


Each option can be specified multiple times, and no declaration is supported to prevent that.

Implementation can use it for advancing its internal state, or detect second use and fail in that case. However, the most natural approach is that the value specified later overrides all preceding ones.

Global vs. specific options

Some options can be considered more "specific" to command, while others are reused on so many commands that they are marked as global. This marking is solely for help/documentation purposes; it has no processing consequences.

In more complex programs, there are many candidates for "global" options, but very few options are really really valid for ALL the present commands. On the other hand, some options are quite often reused, but the author still preffers to mark and document them as command-specific.

For this reason, all options are processed equally, but some can be marked global, either explicitly or implicitly.

Explicit marking happens by using the annottation @Global or @Global(false).

Implicit marking happens when annottation @Global is not present; in that case, option methods which are abstract, or defined on abstract class or interface, get the global flag set to true, while non-abstract option method declared on non-abstract command class sets global flag to false.

Preventing inconsistent option declarations

To keep option definitions consistent, both syntactically and semantically, an important limitation is wired to the design and implementation:

Each option name can be implemented only once

meaning that the analyzer will fail if you, for example, implement option "--xml" on more than one classes/interfaces.

This limitation should be easy to accept and is supposed to have positive impact on good option structure.