Discover how to use fx effectively, a JSON manipulation command line tool

fx is a popular JSON manipulation command line tool. It can be installed via npm, brew or downloaded as a standalone binary.

npm i -g fx

fx comes in handy with a curl command. If you have some API which returns JSON and you want to dig into the structure or just see it, pipe JSON into fx.

curl | fx

fx has a really neat interactive mode for digging into JSON.

You can use your mouse 🐁 or arrow keys for navigating JSON. fx supports folds, click on a filed to expand it or press ➡️ right arrow to expand. Press key to expand all fields recursively. Press to collapse everything back.

Interactive digger

While in interactive mode press (dot) key. You will see a cursor at the end of your terminal window with a popup of JSON fields. Use arrow keys to choose a field and press enter, continue until you find needed data. If you need to go back one level press to erase last path segment. This command accurately removes last part next to or bracket. If you want to start over, press .

BTW, in this field you can write any JavaScript expression not only path expressions.

Pretty printing

Sometimes you don’t need the interactive digger and want to pretty print JSON to stdout. This is can be done by adding argument to fx command.

curl | fx .

Or to print only part of JSON specify the desired path.

curl | fx .films

Requesting API each time is time consuming, what if we save it to a disk first?

curl > data.json

Now we can pass the file as the first argument to fx.

fx data.json .films

Each argument to fx can be some JavaScript function, let’s create file there we put useful function and snippets for reuse.


Let’s add the power of lodash to our command line. Install lodash globally.

npm i -g lodash

Create file into your home directory. And put the next line into it.

Object.assign(global, require('lodash/fp'))

Now you will be able to call all lodash methods even without using prefix. For example, see who’s been committing to react recently:

curl '' \
| fx 'groupBy("")' 'mapValues(size)' \
toPairs 'sortBy(1)' reverse 'take(10)' fromPairs

Let’s count the usage of different words in commit messages.

curl ''  \
| fx 'map("commit.message")' 'map(words)' flatten \
'map(lowerCase)' 'groupBy(identity)' 'mapValues(size)' \
toPairs 'sortBy(1)' reverse 'take(30)' fromPairs

Adding your own snippets

This is pretty easy as well. For example, I have one API which requires documents to be base64 encoded. Let’s see how it’s can be done.

Create some function and assign in to global. For example, a base64 snippet.

global.base64 = str => Buffer.from(str).toString('base64')

Now I’m able to do something like this:

fx data.json '{value: base64(JSON.stringify(this))}' | curl -X POST

Or if split to separate functions:

fx data.json JSON.stringify base64 '{value: this}' | curl -X POST

Edit in-place

With fx you can easily modify JSON objects by using spread operator.

echo '{"count": 0}' | fx '{...this, count: this.count+1}'

But if you try to modify a file and save on a disk in one command, you corrupt your file.

fx data.json '{...this, count: this.count+1}' > data.json

This is common to all command line. For example, sed has a special flag for edit in-place .

fx has a special function called which saves JSON to file and returns it.

fx data.json '{...this, count: 1}' save

We can even output the modified field while saving on the disk.

fx data.json '{...this, count: this.count+1}' save .count

Using xargs

fx prints strings into stdout as “raw” strings without quotes so this can be useful for making fx filters talk to non-JSON-based systems. But if we want to pass a list of arguments? Next snippet comes in handy.

global.list = json => (json.forEach(x => console.log(x)), undefined)

By default, prints into stderr so this won’t affect our pipes.

curl | fx .films list | xargs curl

Searching JSON

fx supports interactive JSON searching. Press can type your pattern to search.

To jump to the next pattern match press . You can apply filter with as well. fx works great with both of them simultaneously.

But what if we want something different?

I think JavaScript is the best language for working with JSON (an acronym to JavaScript Object Notation). What in we want to find all occurrences of some pattern and print it to stdout? We can create our own search snippet. So let’s create a search snippet!

Now we can recursively search our JSON!

fx data.json 'find(/fix/i)'

And even better with using previous snippet you can print founded parts.

fx data.json 'find(/fix/i)' list | xargs -L1 fx data.json

Learn by examples

Update JSON using the spread operator.

$ echo '{"count": 0}' | fx '{...this, count: 1}'
"count": 1

Extract values from maps.

fx commits.json | fx .[]

The last example actually the same as but this syntax also can be used on objects and be nested.

fx .comments[].authors[].names

The next examples all do the same thing.

fx 'x =>[0].bar'
fx '[0].bar'
fx '.foo[0].bar'
fx '.foo[0]' | fx '.bar'
fx '.foo[0]' '.bar'

If you need to run interactive mode only on part of JSON, pipe it again to fx.

cat data.json | fx .value[0].nested | fx


Format JSON into a nice table via cli-table3. Add next spinnet into your file:

Now let’s try to output a list of commits authors in a nice table:

fx commits.json .[] table

And now we will get this nice looking table.


fx supports JSON streaming as well. You can use it for parsing logs, etc.

kubectl logs ... | fx .message

Select(or filter) only desired messages by prepending helper.

kubectl logs ... | fx 'select(x => x.level == "info")' .message

Or just concatenate a few JSON files with and pipe to fx.

cat *.json | fx .length

🎨 Themes support

fx supports themes as well. You can change colors and indent.

global.FX_STYLE_SPACE = 4

Two awesome themes for fx are below:

I hope you enjoy using fx!


Follow me on GitHub.
My website



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store