Getopt modules 19: App::Spec

About this mini-article series. Each day for 24 days, I will be reviewing a module that parses command-line options (such module is usually under the Getopt::* namespace). First article is here.

In the previous article I discussed App::Cmd, which is a nice, simple CLI framework that supports subcommands by requiring you to write a subcommand class for each subcommand you want to add. And it also lets you specify Getopt::Long::Descriptive command-line options directly so you can be as custom as Getopt::Long::Descriptive lets you to be. However, many high-level features are missing.

There exists many more CLI frameworks on CPAN, like there are option parsing libraries, some closer to App::Cmd (except, say, being Moo- or Moose-specific) while others try to provide more said features.

App::Spec is one module. It is closer in features to my Perinci::CmdLine with the main difference being that App::Spec is OO (although it uses a single class and different methods to support subcommands instead of a separate class for each subcommand) while Perinci::CmdLine is decidedly not. Here are the features that it supports (or want to support, as it’s not quite polished or finished yet): a specification for CLI app (summary/description, list of subcommands (possibly nested), and parameters/options for each subcommand), extra validation, automatic help/usage message generation, and shell tab completion. App::Spec is relatively new (2016) and written by Tina Muller (TINITA). No applications on CPAN are using it right now. There is actually an App::Spec article on this year‘s Perl Advent Calendar so I’ll just direct you to reading the article instead of describing it myself.

What’s good about App::Spec is that it does not use Moo or Moose, so you can use it for applications you want to be light. It’s also not too heavy on the OO side. It provides shell tab completion out of the box; we need more frameworks like this because tab completion is one of pillars of usability on the CLI. I hope the completion feature improves in the future.

What I find in App::Spec not really to my liking includes: low-level (manual) mapping to Getopt::Long specification format (I prefer an automatic mapper like in MooseX::Getopt or my Perinci::CmdLine), splitting options into “options” and “parameters” (unnecessary, they’re all options to me, “options” just happen to be boolean switches while “parameters” have values like string or whatever).

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