Customize Click Help Page

Recently, I wanted to start my open source journey by contributing to an open source project called wily. The issue I was working on was to first add a version flag to print the current version of the tool and second to add the version to the help page.

As the project uses click to create a user friendly command-line interface, the help page is auto-generated based on the docstrings. That’s great, but refuses to inject custom dynamic texts. To recall the example of adding the version to the help page, you need to update your version twice: Inside of the __init__.py and inside of the docstring of the main cli command. But you don’t want to change the version of the tool at two places. So, how can you dynamically inject it into the docstring?

A quick research about functions docstrings reveals, that you can access and modify them using function_name.__doc__ . Problem: You can’t do it inside of the function itself as the docstring is added after function creation. Solution: Modify the docstring afterwards. And to anticipate decorators are great for that!

So, let’s demonstrate that by an example project. Consider the following project structure:

└── tool
├── __init__.py
├── __main__.py
└── custom_decorators.py

tool is our tools directory, the __main__.py will include the logic of the command-line tool and custom_decorators.py contains our decorator, which we will use later to change the help page.

Let’s start by having a look at the __init__.py:

As you can see, it only contains the __version__ of the tool. Next, we will have a look at the __main__.py:

It’s just a very basic command-line tool created with click. If you are not very familiar with the code, check out the documentation. You are able to print the version using tool --version and print some text using the do command:

$ python tool/__main__.py do "Some Text"

As already mentioned, you are able to display the help page using --help natively, which is generated based on the docstrings. Let’s modify the help page a little bit! Therefore, we will add the tools version to the help pages heading.

First of all, we need a custom decorator modifying the __doc__ attribute of the cli function, which is our main method or group in this case. Let’s call the decorator add_version and put the corresponding code into tool/custom_decorators.py. The code is pretty straightforward:

Now, we only need to add the decorator to our cli function before all other click decorators are applied:

That’s it! We changed the auto-generated help page and injected the tools version using a custom decorator. The whole project can be found on GitHub. Feel free to get it running on your own machine, to extend it further and to share it!

If you liked it, clap for the story. Feel free to leave comments and share it with others. Thanks for reading, stay curious and keep coding!