Yatrfile Structure and Features

Suppose you have the following yatrfile.yml in your current working directory:

  - "{{urlbase}}/test/test2.yml"

  baz: "ls {{glob}}"

  urlbase: https://raw.githubusercontent.com/mbodenhamer/yatrfiles/master/yatrfiles
  b: bar
  c: "{{b}} baz"
  canard: "false"
  glob: "*.yml"

default: foo

  cwd: pwd

    - foo
    - "echo {{c}} {{_1|default('xyz')}}"

  verily: "true"

    command: 'echo "{{baz}}"'
    if: "true"

    command: foo
    if: "false"

    command: foo
    ifnot: verily

    command: foo
    ifnot: "{{canard}}"

As this example demonstrates, the primary functionality of a yatrfile is found in five top-level sections: include, capture, macros, tasks, and default. Four other sections, files, settings, import, and declare, are also supported (see files, settings, import, and declare, respectively).


The macros section must be a mapping of macro names to macro definitions. Macro definitions may either be plain strings or Jinja2 templates. Macros that include Jinja2 templates will be rendered according to the values of the macros in terms of which they are defined. For example, in the above macros section, two macros b and c are defined thusly:

b: bar
c: "{{b}} baz"

As such, b resolves to bar and c resolves to bar baz. As the macros section is a mapping, and not a list, there is no inherent order to macro definition. yatr takes care of resolving macros and their dependencies in the right order, provided that there are no cyclic macro definitions (e.g. a macro a defined in terms of b, which is defined in terms of a). If any such cycles exist, the program will exit with an error.


The include section must be a list of strings, each of which must be either a filesystem path or a URL specifying the location of another yatrfile. When a yatrfile is “included” in this manner, its macros and tasks are added to the macros and tasks defined by the main yatrfile. Nested includes are supported, following the rule that conflicts in macro or task names are resolved by favoring the definition closest to the main yatrfile.

For example, suppose yatr is invoked on a yatrfile named C.yml, which includes B.yml, which includes A.yml, as follows:


  a: foo
  b: def
  c: xyz


  - A.yml

  a: bar
  b: ghi


  - B.yml

  a: baz

In this case, the macro values would resolve as follows:

$ yatr -f C.yml --dump
a = baz
b = ghi
c = xyz

Name conflicts of tasks from includes are resolved the same way as for macros.

Include paths or URLs may use macros, as the main yatrfile above demonstrates, having an include defined in terms of the urlbase macro. However, any such macros must be defined in the yatrfile itself, and cannot be defined in an included yatrfile or depend on the macros defined in an included yatrfile for their proper resolution.

If an include path is a URL, yatr will attempt to download the file and save it in a cache directory. By default, the cache directory is set to ~/.yatr/, but this may be changed through the --cache-dir option. If the URL file already exists in the cache directory, yatr will load the cached file without downloading. To force yatr to re-download all URL includes specified by the yatrfile, run yatr --pull at the command line.


Tasks are defined in the tasks section of the yatrfile. Tasks may be defined as a single command string. In this example, the task cwd is simply defined as the system command pwd. If your current working directory happens to be /foo/baz, then:

$ yatr cwd

Macros are not fully resolved until task runtime. The example yatrfile specifies the inclusion of a file named test2.yml, which defines a task named foo. However, foo is defined in terms of a macro named b, which is not defined in test2.yml. The macro b is defined in the main yatrfile, however, which induces the following behavior:

$ yatr foo

Tasks may also be defined as a list of command strings, to be executed one after the other, as illustrated by bar:

$ yatr bar
bar baz xyz

If the command string is the name of a defined task, then yatr will simply execute that task instead of trying to execute that string as a system command. The bar task will first execute the foo task defined in test2.yml, and then run the echo command.

The bar task also illustrates another feature of yatr: command-line arguments may be passed to tasks for execution. For example:

$ yatr bar foo
bar baz foo

Unless, explicitly re-defined, the macro _1 denotes the first task command-line argument, _2 denotes the second task command-line argument, and so on. Default values may be specified using the Jinja2 default filter, as is illustrated in the definition of bar.


The default section, if specified, must contain the name of a task to be run if no task names are provided at the command line. In this example, the default task is set to foo:

default: foo

As such, running yatr at the command line is equivalent to running yatr foo:

$ yatr

If no default task is defined, and if yatr is invoked without any arguments, then yatr will exit after printing usage information.


The capture section defines a special type of macro, specifying a mapping from a macro name to a system command whose captured output is to be the value of the macro. Values of capture mappings cannot contain task references, though they may contain references to other macros. In the main example above, the yatrfile defines a capture macro named baz, whose definition is ls {{glob}}. In the macro section, glob is defined as *.yml. Thus, if yatr is invoked in the example working directory, the value of baz will resolve to A.yml  B.yml  C.yml  D.yml  yatrfile.yml.


The files section defines another special type of macro, associating names with filesystem paths. Each associated path must either be a filesystem path or a URL specifying the location of a file. As with the include and import sections, if the path is a URL, the file will be downloaded to the cache directory and the associated name will contain the path of the cached file. If the file already exists in the cache directory, no download will be performed, unless yatr --pull is run. The files section has the same limited support for macros as the include and import sections.

For example, consider the following yatrfile:

  test1: "{{urlbase}}/test/test1.txt"

  urlbase: https://raw.githubusercontent.com/mbodenhamer/yatrfiles/master/yatrfiles
  tmpdir: "{{_1}}"

  foo: 'cp "{{test1}}" "{{tmpdir}}/test1.txt"'
  bar: 'cat "{{tmpdir}}/test1.txt"'

Invoking yatr will cause test1.txt to be downloaded to the cache directory. Running the tasks defined in this yatrfile produces the following behavior:

$ yatr foo /tmp
$ yatr bar /tmp

The first invocation of yatr downloads test1.txt to the cache directory, and copies the file to /tmp. The second invocation dumps the contents of the copied file to stdout.


The top-level section settings allows the global execution behavior of yatr to be modified in various ways. For example, the silent setting, if set to true, will suppress all system command output at the console. Such behavior is disabled by default.

An example of setting setting values in a yatrfile can be found in D.yml, which includes the example yatrfile discussed in Yatrfile Structure and Features:

  - yatrfile.yml

  silent: true

In the example above, running yatr foo led to the output bar being printed to the console. However, invoking the same task through D.yml will result in no output being printed:

$ yatr -f D.yml foo

However, any setting can be set or overridden at the command line by supplying the -s option:

$ yatr -f D.yml -s silent=false foo

For Boolean-type settings, such as silent, any of the following strings may be used to denote True, regardless of capitalization: yes, true, 1. Likewise, any of the following strings may be used to denote False, regardless of capitalization: no, false, 0.

The following table lists the available settings:

Name Description
exit_on_error If true, halt execution if task command exits with non-zero status; true by default (Boolean string)
loop_count_macro The name of the macro that contains the current loop iteration number (string)
preview_conditionals If true, specially demarcate if and ifnot commands when -p is supplied; true by default (Boolean string)
silent If true, suppress task output; false by default (Boolean string)


The import feature enables the functionality of yatr to be extended when necessary, while preserving the simplicity of the default YAML specification for the majority of use cases in which yatr’s default capabilities are sufficient.

The import section must be a list of strings, each of which must be either a filesystem path or a URL specifying the location of a Python module. Strings containing Python module names (such as would be found in a Python import statement) are also supported. Each module so imported must contain a top-level variable named env, which must be an instance of the Env class (see yatr.env module). Modules to be imported in this manner are called “extension modules” (not to be confused with Python extension modules written in C/C++).

The following is an example of a yatr extension module:

from yatr import Env
env = Env()

def foo(value, **kwargs):
    return '{}_foo'.format(value)

def bar(value, **kwargs):
    return '{}_bar'.format(value)

@env.task('barfoo', display=('path', 'baz1'))
def bar_foo(env, *args, **kwargs):
    import os
    print(os.path.join(kwargs['path'], kwargs['baz1']))

This particular extension module defines a custom Jinja2 function (see Custom Jinja2 Functions) and a custom Jinja2 filter (see Custom Jinja2 Filters). A task is also defined in terms of a Python function. Macros can theoretically be defined in an extension module through use of the yatr API, but the straightforward manner of macro declaration facilitated by the standard yatrfile YAML syntax makes the use of include directives a much more efficient and user-friendly alternative.

In this example extension module, a Jinja2 function bar is defined that appends “_bar” to its first argument. Likewise, a Jinja2 filter foo is defined that appends “_foo” to its first argument. Because yatr supplies the current execution environment to custom Jinja 2 filters and functions by way of a keyword argument named env, all such filters and functions defined in extension modules should accept **kwargs as the final argument, even if the kwargs variable is not used within the body of the filter or function itself.

Here is an example yatrfile that uses the extension module defined above:

  - test8.py

  shebang: "#!/bin/bash"
  bar: "{{env('YATR_BAR', 'baz')}}"
  path: "{{env('PATH')}}"
  baz1: "{{'baz'|foo}}"
  baz2: "{{bar('foo')}}"

    - echo foo
    - echo bar
    - echo baz

    - "echo {{bar}}"

    - "echo {{path}}"

  baz: "echo {{baz1}} {{baz2}}"

In addition to bar and foo, this yatrfile also makes use of the built-in custom Jinja2 function env (see env()). The task baz is defined in terms of macros that make use of bar and foo. Invoking the task produces the following output:

$ yatr baz
baz_foo foo_bar

In addition to custom Jinja2 functions and filters, extension modules can also be used to define tasks that execute as Python callables. In this example, the extension module defines a function named bar_foo that will be defined in the yatr execution environment as a task named barfoo. Extension tasks have access to all defined macro values through the first parameter, env (see yatr.env module). Moreover, any extension tasks defined using the @env.task decorator will also receive all defined macros through the *args and **kwargs arguments: *args will be populated with any positional argument macros that are defined (i.e., _1, _2, _3, etc.), and **kwargs will be populated with all defined macro values that are not positional argument macros. While these values can also be accessed via env, the *args and **kwargs parameters are notable in that they represent the current execution environment. In cases where macros in different sections are defined with the same name, using **kwargs enables the programmer to access the actual execution value for that name without having to replicate yatr’s macro precedence logic in the extension function.

In this example, suppose the value of the environment variable PATH is set to /foo/bar. In such case, executing the extension task barfoo produces the following output:

$ yatr barfoo

When executing extension tasks defined via the @env.task decorator, yatr will treat any function that does not raise an exception as exiting with return code 0. Likewise, a function that raises an exception is treated as exiting with return code 1. If extension functions are defined without using the @env.task decorator, the programmer should ensure that the function returns either 0 or 1, as appropriate.

The preview and verbose options (-p and -v) also work with extension functions. By default, yatr will print the function name, along with the full contents of *args and **kwargs. As many more macros may be defined than are used in the extension function, the optional display keyword argument may be provided in the @env.task decorator, allowing the programmer to specify only those keyword arguments to be displayed. In the above example, executing the barfoo extension task with verbose output would produce the following behavior:

$ yatr -v barfoo
bar_foo(baz1=baz_foo, path=/foo/bar)


The declare section must be a list of strings, each of which must be the name of a macro. The function of this section is best explained by example. Suppose a macro named foo is included as part of the definition of either a macro or a task. If foo is not defined in the yatrfile (or any included yatrfiles), the yatrfile will fail validation (see Commands, particularly –validate). If foo is included in the declare section, however, yatr will effectively ignore the macro and allow the yatrfile to validate.

The declare section is necessary for validating yatrfiles that make use of certain macros that are only defined at runtime. Yatr will automatically handle cases of builtin runtime-defined macros (such as _1), and these do not need to be included in the declare section. However, any runtime-defined macros that are not builtin to yatr will need to be included in the declare section in order for the yatrfile to validate successfully. An example of using the declare section is included in List Macros and For Loops.

Custom Jinja2 Functions

The following functions are defined by default for use in Jinja2 templates.


The commands function takes a single argument and prints the commands corresponding to the execution of the task whose name is the argument. For example, suppose one is using the example yatrfile of the import section above in order to run a --render command on the following template file (template.j2):


One could then render the template like so:

yatr -i template.j2 -o template.bash --render

The resulting output file (template.bash) would look like:

echo foo
echo bar
echo baz


The env function takes either one or two arguments. In either case, the first argument must be the name of an environment variable. The env function will return the value of this environment variable if it is defined. If the environment variable is undefined and only one argument is supplied to env, the function will raise an exception and halt execution of the task. On the other hand, if a second argument is supplied to env, it will be returned in the case that the environment variable in question is undefined.

For example, consider the example yatrfile of the import section above. The home macro is defined in terms of the environment variable PATH. In the practically-inconceivable case that PATH is not defined, yatr will exit with an exception when loading this yatrfile. On the other hand, in an environment in which YATR_BAR is not defined, the program will behave as follows:

$ yatr bar
$ YATR_BAR=foo yatr bar

Custom Jinja2 Filters

There are currently no custom Jinja2 filters defined by default for use in Jinja2 templates, but some will probably be added in future releases.

Conditional Task Execution

Tasks may be defined to execute conditionally upon the successful execution of a command, using the keys if and ifnot. If these or other command options are used, the command itself must be explicitly identified by use of the command key. These principles are illustrated in the cond1, cond2, cond3, and cond4 tasks:

$ yatr cond1
A.yml  B.yml  C.yml  D.yml  yatrfile.yml
$ yatr cond2
$ yatr cond3
$ yatr cond4

The values supplied to if and ifnot may be anything that would otherwise constitute a valid task definition. If a value is supplied for if, the command will be executed only if the return code of the test command is zero. Likewise, if a value is supplied for ifnot, the command will be executed only if the return code of the test command is non-zero.

List Macros and For Loops

In most use cases, macros will either be plain strings or Jinja2 templates. However, there are some cases in which it is useful to have a list of strings or macros defined itself as a macro. To define such a “list macro”, simply use YAML list syntax in the macro definition. For example, consider the following yatrfile:

  - count

  a: x
    - "{{a}}"
    - "y"
    - w
    - z

    command: "echo {{a}} {{u}} {{v}} {{_n}}"
        - u
        - v
        - b
        - c

    command: "echo {{x}} {{count}}"
      var: x
      in: [1, 2, 3, 4]

The macro a is a plain string, but both b and c are list macros. List macros can be used for iteration via for loops, as is illustrated by the definitions of the tasks named foo and bar.

The for key requires two sub-keys, var and in. The var sub-key defines the iteration variable(s), while the in sub-key specifies the lists or list macros over which to iterate. In the case that var is a string value, for specifies a simple and intuitive for loop over the values specified by in. The value of in may either be the name of a list macro, as in the task named foo, or a list literal, as in the task named bar. In the case that var is a list, for specifies a loop over the Cartesian product of the lists specified by in. The task named foo illustrates a 2x2 Cartesian product, while the task named bar illustrates a simple for loop.

It should be noted that the local variables defined by var only exist in the context of the execution of the loop. It should also be noted that the for loop defines a special local variable named _n, which contains the current iteration number. Note that the task named foo is defined in terms of _n. As such:

$ yatr foo
x x w 0
x x z 1
x y w 2
x y z 3

The name of _n may be changed if desired via the loop_count_macro setting. For example:

$ yatr -s loop_count_macro=count bar
1 0
2 1
3 2
4 3

Note that the macro count is included in the declare section (see declare) to allow the yatrfile to validate successfully.

Dictionary Macros

In addition to list macros, yatr also supports the use of dictionary macros. To define such a “dictionary macro”, simply use YAML dictionary syntax in the macro definition. For example, consider the following yatrfile:

  a: abc
    a: def
    b: "{{a}}"
  c: "{{b.a}} {{b.b}}"

      b: 1
      b: 2
      b: 3

  foo: "echo {{c}}"
  bar: "echo {{d[_1].b}}"

The macro b is a dictionary macro that is defined in terms of a. A second string macro, c, is defined in terms of the two items in b. As such:

$ yatr foo
def abc

Calling Tasks with Arguments

Tasks can be called from other tasks by providing the name of a task as the value to the command key. When a task is called in this manner, its macros can also be overridden using the args and kwargs keys. Values in args will override _1, _2, and so on, while values in kwargs will override named macros. These macro overrides only take effect for that specific task call, and do not change macro values globally.

Consider the following example yatrfile:

  x: 5
  y: 10

  x: "echo {{x}} {{_1|default(3)}} {{ARGS[0]|default(10)}}"

    command: x
      - 1
      - 2
      x: 7

    command: x
      - 6
      var: x
      in: [1, 2, 3]

    - x
    - "y"
    - x

    - echo foo
    - task:
        command: x
          - "{{y * 2}}"
          x: "{{y * 3}}"

The task y shows how macro values may be overridden in a task definition:

$ yatr x
5 3 10

$ yatr x 4
5 4 4

$ yatr y 4
7 1 4

In calling x, y overrides _1 and _2 (which is not used by x), but does not affect the builtin macro ARGS (see Builtin Macros). Note that ARGS[0] is equivalent to _1, unless _1 is overridden locally through a task call.

The task z shows that calling tasks in this manner is compatible with for loop functionality:

$ yatr z 4
1 6 4
2 6 4
3 6 4

The task w shows that calling tasks in this manner does not change global macro values:

$ yatr w 4
5 4 4
7 1 4
5 4 4

Tasks can also be defined anonymously within task list definitions using the task keyword, as illustrated by the task u:

$ yatr u
30 20 10

Note also that the args and kwargs of the task u are defined in terms of the macro y.

Builtin Macros

The following macros are defined by default:

Name Description
ARGS Command-line task arguments (list of strings)
CURDIR Yatrfile directory path (string)
YATR Invocation of yatr on current yatrfile (string)
YATRFILE Yatrfile path (string)

The use of these macros is illustrated in the following yatrfile (test11.yml):

  err: yatr --render -i /foo/bar/baz -o /foo/bar/bazz

  foo: "echo {{_1}} >> {{_2}}"
    - foo
    - "yatr -f {{YATRFILE}} foo a {{_2}}"
    - "{{YATR}} foo c {{_2}}"
    - "yatr -f {{CURDIR}}/test11.yml foo d {{ARGS[1]}}"
    - foo

    - err
    - foo

For example, suppose bar is invoked in the following manner on an empty file /tmp/foo:

$ yatr bar b /tmp/foo

The file /tmp/foo will now contain the following:


The other tasks illustrate the use of the exit_on_error setting (see settings). Supposing that neither /foo/bar/baz or /foo/bar/bazz exist on the filesystem, attempting to run baz with default settings will result in an error and foo will not be run. On the other hand, foo will run if baz is invoked like so:

$ yatr -s exit_on_error=false baz a /tmp/baz

If /tmp/baz was an empty file, it will now contain: