When building CLI tools it can feel like there is a lot of ceremony in creating command line argument parsers and setting up your project just to get to the stage where you start coding your feature/business logic. This is where Spectre.Console.Cli comes in. It's a very opinionated library for paring command line arguments and structuring your project using established industry conventions.

How it works

A quote taken straight from the documentation website:

A Spectre.Console.Cli app will be comprised of Commands and a matching Setting specification. The settings file will be the model for the command parameters. Upon execution, Spectre.Console.Cli will parse the args[] passed into your application and match them to the appropriate settings file giving you a strongly typed object to work with.

Showcasing with an example

Before I start going showcasing the usage of spectre console I'll give some context on the tool I intend to create. In this example I will be creating a CLI tool that will generate QR code from text input.

You maybe questioning how can a CLI tool output an image... the answer Spectre.Console.ImageSharp which is also part of the Spectre.Console framework. To also aid with this example tool I'll be using nuget package Net.Codecrete.QrCodeGenerator to generate the QR code images.

In total I will be using the following packages:

  • Net.Codecrete.QrCodeGenerator
  • Spectre.Console.Cli
  • Spectre.Console.ImageSharp


To start off with we have the following classes:

  1. QRCodeCommand

    • Extends the Command<T> class where T extends CommandSettings. This allows you to override the Execute method.
    • The Execute method is where you add you specific code logic.
    • The settings class where T extends CommandSettings gets passed into the Execute method allowing you to do whatever the input arguments.
  2. QRCodeCommandSettings

    • Extends the CommandSettings class as mentioned above.
    • To define a argument (setting) you add it as a property as shown with Text in the code.
    • Attributes such as CommandArgument are used to define if a argument should be required or optional. Read specifying settings for more information on attributes.

This is pretty much it, with minimal effort I was able to encapsulate my code in a method separating it from the concerns of parsing arguments (ie. settings).

Notice how I specified Text as string[], this was to allow entering of text with spaces, I could of specified it as just a string, but I wanted to be more flexible and allow entering of text with spaces without having to specify quotations around the string. Where this comes unstuck though is if I wanted to add more settings as the spaces normally indicate a separate argument.

using Net.Codecrete.QrCodeGenerator;
using Spectre.Console;
using Spectre.Console.Cli;
using System.ComponentModel;

namespace Dotnet.QRCode
    public class QRCodeCommandSettings : CommandSettings
        [Description("Text to generate QR code for")]
        [CommandArgument(0, "<text>")]
        public required string[] Text { get; init; }

    public class QRCodeCommand : Command<QRCodeCommandSettings>
        public override int Execute(CommandContext context, QRCodeCommandSettings settings)
            var qr = QrCode.EncodeText(string.Join(" ", settings.Text), QrCode.Ecc.Medium);
            var image = new CanvasImage(qr.ToBmpBitmap(1));

            return 0;

Now that I've defined my command I'll need to setup the Program.cs to load the command and execute it as expected. As you probably may already know Main method is where the entry point to a console application, so this is where to set it up.

Notable setup methods:

  • AddExample: Adds a example of how to use the application. Also gets displayed on the help command.
  • PropagateExceptions: Will re-throw exceptions, useful for investigating errors.
  • ValidateExamples: Runs the examples set to validate them.
using Dotnet.QRCode;
using Spectre.Console;
using Spectre.Console.Cli;

public class Program
    public static int Main(string[] args)
        var app = new CommandApp<QRCodeCommand>();
        app.Configure(config =>

            config.AddExample("Hello, World!");


            return app.Run(args);
        catch (Exception ex)
            AnsiConsole.WriteException(ex, ExceptionFormats.ShortenEverything);
            return -1;

And that is pretty much the setup and out of the box and you get a nice --help command which outputs how your CLI can be used with all the examples provided in the Program.cs of which would look like the following output for this example.

    dotnet-qrcode <text> [OPTIONS]                                                                                                                             
    dotnet-qrcode Hello, World!

    <text>    Text to generate QR code for

    -h, --help       Prints help information
    -v, --version    Prints version information


All that being said sometimes it's just easier to show it in action:


A testing package Spectre.Console.Testing is also made available to assist with testing the commands. This package is used in the tests for the Spectre.Console package itself. More infomation can be found on best practices documentation.

Here I've setup a test that runs multiple arguments against the command and the expectation is that it should handle it as opposed to not recognizing the extra arguments resulting in a error being thrown.

using FluentAssertions;
using Spectre.Console.Testing;

namespace Dotnet.QRCode.Tests
    public class QRCodeAppTests
        public async void Should_Handle_SingleAndMultipleArguments(string[] args)
            var app = new CommandAppTester();

            var result = await app.RunAsync(args);


        public static IEnumerable<object[]> SingleAndMultipleArgumentsTestData =>
        new List<object[]>
            new object[] { new string[] { "Hello, World!" } },
            new object[] { new string[] { "Hello,", "World!" } },
            new object[] { new string[] { "Hello", ",", "World!" } },
            new object[] { new string[] { "Hello", ",", "World", "!" } }


As it says on the tin Spectre.Console.Cli is very opinionated library, so might not satisfy your personal preferences, but what you get in return is a framework that gets you started with a robust CLI argument parsing with minimal effort. Allowing you to focus on the important stuff which is implementing your code logic. I personally like Command approach because it reminds me CQRS pattern which I have extensively used in the last few years, making this framework easy to adopt.

If your interested in the example code used in this blog, you can find it here