OpenSoftware.OptionParser 1.1.12

.NET 6.0 .NET Standard 2.1
dotnet add package OpenSoftware.OptionParser --version 1.1.12
NuGet\Install-Package OpenSoftware.OptionParser -Version 1.1.12
This command is intended to be used within the Package Manager Console in Visual Studio, as it uses the NuGet module's version of Install-Package.
<PackageReference Include="OpenSoftware.OptionParser" Version="1.1.12" />
For projects that support PackageReference, copy this XML node into the project file to reference the package.
paket add OpenSoftware.OptionParser --version 1.1.12
#r "nuget: OpenSoftware.OptionParser, 1.1.12"
#r directive can be used in F# Interactive, C# scripting and .NET Interactive. Copy this into the interactive tool or source code of the script to reference the package.
// Install OpenSoftware.OptionParser as a Cake Addin
#addin nuget:?package=OpenSoftware.OptionParser&version=1.1.12

// Install OpenSoftware.OptionParser as a Cake Tool
#tool nuget:?package=OpenSoftware.OptionParser&version=1.1.12



OptionParser is a library that deals with option parsing and option handling for command-line (CLI) programs.

Options are defined in a class that derives from OptionParser, where each option is declared as a property and has a type that derives from Option. Meta-information about the options (such as its name) are defined using attributes. The library comes with multiple pre-defined option types, which will enable you to get started quickly. See below for a complete list of option types.

Basic Usage

Below we will describe the few necessary steps to get the option parser to run in your application.

Creating an option parser

The first step in using OptionParser is to create a class that derives from OptionParser that defines the different switches of your application. Below is a small example:

    public class ExampleOptionParser : OptionParser
        public override string Name => "Option parser example";
        public override string Description => "This application provides a basic example of the OptionParser library";

        [Option(Description = "Specifies the input size in number of bytes", Name = "--input-size", ShortName = "-i")]
        public IntOption InputSize { get; set; }

        [Option(Description = "Specifies whether or not binary mode should be used", Name = "--binary-mode", ShortName = "-b")]
        public BoolOption BinaryMode { get; set; }

        [Option(Description = "Specifies the source location", Name = "--source-location", ShortName = "-s")]
        public StringOption SourceLocation { get; set; }

This class defines an option parser with a specific name and description. It specifies three options. There is an IntOption to specify the input size, a BoolOption to specify binary mode, and there is a StrngOption to specify the source location. The attributes for each option specify meta data. In this example, the description of each option and its syntax (as long name and short name).

Parsing command line arguments

To use this option parser you instantiate the class and use its Parse method as follows:

    public static void Main(string[] args)
        var options = new ExampleOptionParser();

This example shows how the array of command line parameters args is passed to the Parse method. For testing purposes, you could also pass your own set of switches to the parser. E.g.:

    options.Parse("-i", "10", "--binary-mode");

Generated usage instructions

The meta information defined in your parser class also serves to build default usage instructions. If you run your application with the --help or /? switch, the parser writes usage instructions of your application to standard error.

Option parser example -- This application provides a basic example of the
                         OptionParser library

--binary-mode (-b)        Specifies whether or not binary mode should be used
--input-size (-i)         Specifies the input size in number of bytes
--source-location (-s)    Specifies the source location
--help (/?)               Shows this usage information. (default: false).

Consuming parsed options

After parsing, the different properties of ExampleOptionParser are instantiated according to the command line arguments that are passed to the parser.

For instance, to get the input size use:

    int input_size = options.InputSize.Value;

If this switch wasn't used by the user, options.InputSize.IsDefined is false. This is because options are optional by default. To make an option mandatory, specify IsRequired = true for the option:

        [Option(Description = "Specifies the input size in number of bytes", Name = "--input-size", ShortName = "-i", IsRequired = true)]
        public IntOption InputSize { get; set; }

If the user does not specify the switch an exception is which you need to handle in your program.

Advanced usage

The library supports more advanced option handling than the getting-started example shows. For instance, it supports enum types,file options, as well as sub commands. The source code of OptionParser contain unit tests for each feature, demonstrating their usage.

The OptionParser class

The class OptionParser forms the base class of every option parser. It has two constructors:

  • protected OptionParser(IEnumerable<string> args)
  • protected OptionParser()

The first constructor automatically parses the list of arguments args. The second constructor only performs required initialization, while the parsing has to be done explicitly by calling the Parse methods.

The class defines the following abstract properties that must be defined in a base class:

  • Name Specifies the name of the application. This is used in the generated usage instructions.
  • Description Provides a short description about the program. This information is used in the generated usage instructions.

The following option can optionally be defined in a base class:

  • Copyright Provides copyright information about the program. This information is used in the generated usage instruction.

Explicit parsing is done by choosing one of the following parse methods:

  • public void Parse(params string[] args
  • Parse(IEnumerable<string> args)

The first is typically used for unit testing where you can pass a sequence of command line arguments to the parse method. The second method is typically used to parse the array of command line argument from your Main method.

To display usage information you can choose between two variants:

  • public void DisplayUsage(TextWriter writer)
  • public void DisplayUsage(TextWriter writer, int width)

The first uses a default line width based on the console window width, for the second variant you specify the width explicitly.

There are three properties available to further inspect the parser and the parse result:

  • public List<Option> Options Returns the collection of switched defined in your option parser.
  • public List<Option> ProcessedOptions Returns the collection of all the options that have successfully been processed.
  • public List<string> Arguments Returns the collection of remaining (unparsed) command line arguments after parsing.

Option Metadata

Metadata of options is specified using the OptionAttribute. It has the following properties:

  • DefaultValue Specifies a default value for the option.
  • Description Specifies a description for the option.
  • EnumValue For enumeration-based options (e.g., SwitchOption and CommandOption) this attribute specifies the enum value to which this option corresponds.
  • Index Specifies the index in the help overview where this option should appear.
  • IsRequired Indicates whether an option is mandatory or not.
  • Name Specifies the name of the option (e.g., '--input-size').
  • ShortName Specifies the abbreviated name of the option (e.g., '-i').

Option Types

Below is the list of predefined option types.

  • BoolOption Defines a boolean switch. It accepts a value of true or false,but specifying this value is required. The evaluated value is accessible through the Value property.
  • CommandOption This is an advanced feature of OptionParser which enables the definition of commands with different sets of switches. Please look at the unit tests for further information.
  • EnumOption This option type serves to define a fixed set of accepted values.
  • FileOption Extends StringOption with a FileName property.
  • InputFileOption Extends FileOption with a Reader property of type TextReader which allows to easily access the file that was specified on the command line.
  • IntOption Defines an integer switch. The evaluated value is accessible through the Value property.
  • OutputFileOption Extends FileOption with a Writer property of type TextWriter which allows to easily access the file that was specified on the command line. The property Encoding allows you to write a file in the correct encoding.
  • PathOption Extends StringOption with a Path property.
  • StringOption Defines a string switch. The evaluated value is accessible through the Value property.
  • SwitchOption This is an advanced feature of OptionParser that serves to define a group of command line switch one of which may be used at a time. Please look at the unit tests for examples of using this feature.

More info

Source code of OptionParser is available at GitHub. Nuget packages are available at

OptionParser is distributed under the Apache 2.0 License.

Product Versions
.NET net5.0 net5.0-windows net6.0 net6.0-android net6.0-ios net6.0-maccatalyst net6.0-macos net6.0-tvos net6.0-windows net7.0 net7.0-android net7.0-ios net7.0-maccatalyst net7.0-macos net7.0-tvos net7.0-windows
.NET Core netcoreapp3.0 netcoreapp3.1
.NET Standard netstandard2.1
MonoAndroid monoandroid
MonoMac monomac
MonoTouch monotouch
Tizen tizen60
Xamarin.iOS xamarinios
Xamarin.Mac xamarinmac
Xamarin.TVOS xamarintvos
Xamarin.WatchOS xamarinwatchos
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NuGet packages

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Version Downloads Last updated
1.1.12 236 1/24/2022
1.1.11 164 12/16/2021
1.1.10 208 10/9/2021
1.1.9 208 6/29/2021
1.1.8 200 6/26/2021
1.1.7 274 6/23/2021
1.1.6 299 6/22/2021
1.1.5 387 6/22/2021
1.1.4 1,192 10/5/2017
1.1.3 915 10/5/2017
1.0.1 1,062 9/18/2017
1.0.0 779 9/15/2017

Add ListOption and GuidOption