A General-Purpose Command-Line Parser


The CLI parser component is a general-purpose command-line processor intended for simplifying the creation of command-line tools. It performs three functions: parsing of the command line; reading default values from an Ini file; implementing built-in default values.

The parser works off a set of parameter definitions. These define the set of command line options and their behaviour. It also determines whether the command can take arguments or only options.

Associated with each definition is a default value. These are stored in the command-line parser and become the initial values of the options. These may later be overridden from the Ini files or from the command-line itself.

The parser can also optionally read default values from an Ini file, managed by the ini_manager component. These are in addition to the built-in default values, not instead of them.

Finally, the command-line itself is read and options specified from the command line added to the set of values.

The processed command line is then accessed by indexing into an array - a bit like reading argv, except that options and their values are combined into a single element. Default values appear in this array so that default values are handled in the same way as command-line values. The idea is that you simply process the options from left to right and by doing so you automatically get all the options including built-in defaults, Ini-file defaults and user-specified options.

The following sections will make all this clearer.


The command-liner parser has a multi-stage initialisation phase. Some of the stages in the initialisation are compulsory and some are optional. The following stages are processed in the order given:

Set up an error handler (required)

The CLI parser contains a reference to an error handler (see message_handler.hpp). Since this is a reference, it must be initialised by a constructor. The CLI parser cannot be used (at present) without an error handler since syntax errors in the command-line and Ini-files are reported using the error handler.

Set up definitions (required)

The set of options supported are set up in the CLI parser by passing it a set of definitions. There are two representations of these definitions. There is a C-like form which is good for declaring definitions as a static structure and there's a C++ form which is good for building definitions dynamically. Both forms support the concept of built-in default values for each option.

Read default values from an ini-file (optional)

The built-in default values can be overridden by default values specified in an ini-file (see ini_manager.hpp. This is an optional step since not all programs require that level of configuration.

Parse the command-line (optional)

The command line, or at least a command-line-like structure is then parsed to check that it conforms to the syntax defined by the definitions. This is made optional because the CLI parser can make a convenient interface to configuration files, simplifying further the interface to the ini-files.

The command-line parser has a large number of constructors representing the most common combinations of initialisations:

class stlplus::cli_parser
  cli_parser(stlplus::message_handler& errors);

  cli_parser(stlplus::cli_definitions_t, stlplus::message_handler& errors);
  cli_parser(stlplus::cli_definitions_t, const stlplus::ini_manager& defaults, const std::string& ini_section, stlplus::message_handler& errors);
  cli_parser(char* argv[], stlplus::cli_definitions_t, stlplus::message_handler& errors);
  cli_parser(char* argv[], stlplus::cli_definitions_t, const stlplus::ini_manager& defaults, const std::string& ini_section, stlplus::message_handler& errors);

  cli_parser(stlplus::cli_definitions, stlplus::message_handler& errors);
  cli_parser(stlplus::cli_definitions, const stlplus::ini_manager& defaults, const std::string& ini_section, stlplus::message_handler& errors);
  cli_parser(char* argv[], stlplus::cli_definitions, stlplus::message_handler& errors);
  cli_parser(char* argv[], stlplus::cli_definitions, const stlplus::ini_manager& defaults, const std::string&
ini_section, stlplus::message_handler& errors);

The parser must have a stlplus::message_handler to report parsing errors and to report usage information. Therefore all constructors require this field. The first constructor only sets up the error handler but defers all other initialisations.

All parsers must also have a set of definitions (defined in the next section). When using the first constructor, you must explicitly set up the definitions using the add_definitions or add_definition (note the plural versus the singular). All the other constructors include this stage.

The second constructor does both jobs - it sets up the error handler and sets up the definitions. Note that if there is an error in the definitions an exception is thrown.

The third constructor does these jobs but also reads default values from an Ini-file. You have to use the stlplus::ini_manager class to manage the Ini files. You also have to state which section of the Ini file to read - Ini files are divided into sections, typically one for each tool in a set of tools. It is recommended that default command-line options are stored in an Ini-file section with the same name as the command, but this is a recommendation not a rule.

The fourth constructor sets up the error handler, sets up the definitions and then parses the command line. It excludes the ini-file handling.

The fifth constructor includes all of the stages.

The remaining four constructors do the same job but with the C++ version of the definitions structure rather than the C form.

If you wish, you can perform each task separately. In that case, you must set up the stlplus::message_handler first since that is required by the first constructor. The definitions should be added next, followed by the Ini-file defaults (optional) and then the comamnd-line parsing.

Also, if you prefer to set of the definitions one by one, you can do so.

The support functions for the step-by-step approach are:

void cli_parser::add_definitions(definitions);
unsigned cli_parser::add_definition(const definition&);
void cli_parser::set_defaults(const stlplus::ini_manager& defaults, const std::string& ini_section);
bool parse(char* argv[]);

Option Definitions

The command-line parser is initialised with a set of definitions for the options supported by the application. There are two ways of creating definitions - what I refer to as a C form and a C++ form.

The C form is a C array (not a vector) of C structs. This is a form that can be used in a static declaration. It can also be a very compact form because it can be declared using the C aggregate notation. For example:

stlplus::cli_definitions_t definitions =
    {"help",    stlplus::cli_switch_kind, stlplus::cli_single_mode,   "VLIBRARY_USAGE_HELP",    0},
    {"map",     stlplus::cli_value_kind,  stlplus::cli_multiple_mode, "VLIBRARY_USAGE_MAP",     0},
    {"create",  stlplus::cli_value_kind,  stlplus::cli_multiple_mode, "VLIBRARY_USAGE_CREATE",  0},
    {"add",     stlplus::cli_value_kind,  stlplus::cli_multiple_mode, "VLIBRARY_USAGE_ADD",     0},
    {"remove",  stlplus::cli_value_kind,  stlplus::cli_multiple_mode, "VLIBRARY_USAGE_REMOVE",  0},
    {"delete",  stlplus::cli_value_kind,  stlplus::cli_multiple_mode, "VLIBRARY_USAGE_DELETE",  0},
    {"work",    stlplus::cli_value_kind,  stlplus::cli_multiple_mode, "VLIBRARY_USAGE_WORK",    0},
    {"lock",    stlplus::cli_switch_kind, stlplus::cli_multiple_mode, "VLIBRARY_USAGE_LOCK",    0},
    {"unlock",  stlplus::cli_switch_kind, stlplus::cli_multiple_mode, "VLIBRARY_USAGE_UNLOCK",  0},
    {"tidy",    stlplus::cli_switch_kind, stlplus::cli_multiple_mode, "VLIBRARY_USAGE_TIDY",    0},
    {"verbose", stlplus::cli_switch_kind, stlplus::cli_single_mode,   "VLIBRARY_USAGE_VERBOSE", 0},
    {"version", stlplus::cli_switch_kind, stlplus::cli_single_mode,   "VLIBRARY_USAGE_VERSION", "on"},

The above example only contains static values and therefore could be declared in any static (file) scope. Note how the suffix "_t" has been used. This is a common convention for C types and I have used this notation to reinforce the C-like nature of these structures. The last element of the aggregate must be the macro END_CLI_DEFINITIONS so that the end of the array can be detected by the cli_manager.

This C-like form is not limited to static scope however, it can also be used within a function, in which case it can use variables for its values:

stlplus::cli_definitions_t definitions =
    {"help",    stlplus::cli_switch_kind, stlplus::cli_single_mode,   "VLIBRARY_USAGE_HELP",    0},
    {"map",     stlplus::cli_value_kind,  stlplus::cli_multiple_mode, "VLIBRARY_USAGE_MAP",     map_file.c_str()},
    {"create",  stlplus::cli_value_kind,  stlplus::cli_multiple_mode, "VLIBRARY_USAGE_CREATE",  0},
    {"add",     stlplus::cli_value_kind,  stlplus::cli_multiple_mode, "VLIBRARY_USAGE_ADD",     0},
    {"remove",  stlplus::cli_value_kind,  stlplus::cli_multiple_mode, "VLIBRARY_USAGE_REMOVE",  0},
    {"delete",  stlplus::cli_value_kind,  stlplus::cli_multiple_mode, "VLIBRARY_USAGE_DELETE",  0},
    {"work",    stlplus::cli_value_kind,  stlplus::cli_multiple_mode, "VLIBRARY_USAGE_WORK",    0},
    {"lock",    stlplus::cli_switch_kind, stlplus::cli_multiple_mode, "VLIBRARY_USAGE_LOCK",    0},
    {"unlock",  stlplus::cli_switch_kind, stlplus::cli_multiple_mode, "VLIBRARY_USAGE_UNLOCK",  0},
    {"tidy",    stlplus::cli_switch_kind, stlplus::cli_multiple_mode, "VLIBRARY_USAGE_TIDY",    0},
    {"verbose", stlplus::cli_switch_kind, stlplus::cli_single_mode,   "VLIBRARY_USAGE_VERBOSE", 0},
    {"version", stlplus::cli_switch_kind, stlplus::cli_single_mode,   "VLIBRARY_USAGE_VERSION", "on"},

Note how the default value (the last element on the line) for the "map" option now has its value defined by the return value from a function call.

The C++ form comes into its own if aspects of the definitions are dynamically determined. This form is represented by a vector of classes. The vector type is called stlplus::cli_definitions and the class that it contains is stlplus::cli_definition (note again the plural and the singular).

The definition class has a constructor that makes it easy to set up. For example:

stlplus::cli_definitions definitions;
definitions.push_back(stlplus::cli_definition("help",    stlplus::cli_switch_kind, stlplus::cli_single_mode,   "VLIBRARY_USAGE_HELP",    0));
definitions.push_back(stlplus::cli_definition("map",     stlplus::cli_value_kind,  stlplus::cli_multiple_mode, "VLIBRARY_USAGE_MAP",     map_file.c_str()));
definitions.push_back(stlplus::cli_definition("create",  stlplus::cli_value_kind,  stlplus::cli_multiple_mode, "VLIBRARY_USAGE_CREATE",  0));
definitions.push_back(stlplus::cli_definition("add",     stlplus::cli_value_kind,  stlplus::cli_multiple_mode, "VLIBRARY_USAGE_ADD",     0));
definitions.push_back(stlplus::cli_definition("remove",  stlplus::cli_value_kind,  stlplus::cli_multiple_mode, "VLIBRARY_USAGE_REMOVE",  0));
definitions.push_back(stlplus::cli_definition("delete",  stlplus::cli_value_kind,  stlplus::cli_multiple_mode, "VLIBRARY_USAGE_DELETE",  0));
definitions.push_back(stlplus::cli_definition("work",    stlplus::cli_value_kind,  stlplus::cli_multiple_mode, "VLIBRARY_USAGE_WORK",    0));
definitions.push_back(stlplus::cli_definition("lock",    stlplus::cli_switch_kind, stlplus::cli_multiple_mode, "VLIBRARY_USAGE_LOCK",    0));
definitions.push_back(stlplus::cli_definition("unlock",  stlplus::cli_switch_kind, stlplus::cli_multiple_mode, "VLIBRARY_USAGE_UNLOCK",  0));
definitions.push_back(stlplus::cli_definition("tidy",    stlplus::cli_switch_kind, stlplus::cli_multiple_mode, "VLIBRARY_USAGE_TIDY",    0));
definitions.push_back(stlplus::cli_definition("verbose", stlplus::cli_switch_kind, stlplus::cli_single_mode,   "VLIBRARY_USAGE_VERBOSE", 0));
definitions.push_back(stlplus::cli_definition("version", stlplus::cli_switch_kind, stlplus::cli_single_mode,   "VLIBRARY_USAGE_VERSION", "on"));

Regardless of whether you use the C form or the C++ form, the option definition has the same contents in the same order. Each option has five parts to its definition: its name; its kind (switch or value); its mode (more later); a message to print in the usage report (more later) and its default value. The default value is optional - in the C form it is omitted by giving a null char* as the value but in the C++ form it should be the empty string.

The types used in declaring definitions are:

enum stlplus::cli_kind_t {stlplus::cli_switch_kind, stlplus::cli_value_kind};

enum stlplus::cli_mode_t {stlplus::cli_single_mode, stlplus::cli_multiple_mode, stlplus::cli_cumulative_mode};

// The C struct for definitions
struct stlplus::cli_definition_t
  const char* m_name;
  stlplus::cli_kind_t m_kind;
  stlplus::cli_mode_t m_mode;
  const char* m_message;
  const char* m_default;

// The C array of the C struct. The array must be terminated by END_CLI_DEFINITIONS.
typedef stlplus::cli_definition_t stlplus::cli_definitions_t [];
#define END_CLI_DEFINITIONS {0,stlplus::cli_switch_kind,stlplus::cli_single_mode,"",0}

// The C++ class for definitions
class stlplus::cli_definition
  std::string m_name;
  stlplus::cli_kind_t m_kind;
  stlplus::cli_mode_t m_mode;
  std::string m_message;
  std::string m_default;

  cli_definition(const std::string& name,
                 stlplus::cli_kind_t kind,
                 stlplus::cli_mode_t mode,
                 const std::string& message,
                 const std::string& default_value = std::string());

// The C++ vector of the C++ class
typedef std::vector<stlplus::cli_definition> stlplus::cli_definitions;

The first field is the name of the option. On the command line they will have to have a '-' prepended to indicate that this is an option, but this is omitted from the name field. The empty string "" is used to define the command-line arguments i.e. those values that are not associated with an option. For example, if the application was called "DoIt", then the following command has four arguments which will be associated with the "" option:

DoIt one two three four

The following command will set the switch value "help" to its positive value:

DoIt -help

There will be more on how to interpret the options later.

The second field is the kind of the options. There are two kinds - switch and value. A switch is just on or off and has no following value, like the "help" option given in the example above. Value options have a value following them on the command line:

DoIt -work test

In this example, the option "work" has the value "test" associated with it.

The third field in the definition is the mode of the option. There are three modes:

Only a single instance of the option is kept. If the option appears more than once, either in the command line or the default values, then the later definition overrides the earlier ones, causing the earlier definitions to disappear.
There can be many instances of the option. All instaces at the same level are kept, but instances from "higher" levels override "lower" levels. The highest level is the command-line, followed by Ini-file defaults and the lowest level is the set of built-in defaults. Thus the command-line overrides all other levels, whilst the Ini-file overrides just the built-in defaults.
There can be many instances of the option and all instances are kept regardless of their level.

The fourth field in the definition is the mnemonic for a message to be passed to the stlplus::message_handler. This is used in help messages to give usage information for the application. The messages used for this example command are:

VLIBRARY_USAGE_HELP             \t-[no]help               # this help!
VLIBRARY_USAGE_MAP              \t-map <path>             # set the library mapping file (.lmf) to use - default is ./moods.lmf
VLIBRARY_USAGE_CREATE           \t-create <name>=<path>   # create a library called <name> in directory <path> and add to the list
VLIBRARY_USAGE_ADD              \t-add <path>             # add the library at <path> to the library list
VLIBRARY_USAGE_REMOVE           \t-remove <name>          # remove the library <name> from the library list
VLIBRARY_USAGE_DELETE           \t-delete <name>          # delete the library called <name> and its directory
VLIBRARY_USAGE_WORK             \t-work <name>            # make <name> the current work library
VLIBRARY_USAGE_LOCK             \t-lock                   # lock the work library
VLIBRARY_USAGE_UNLOCK           \t-unlock                 # unlock the work library
VLIBRARY_USAGE_TIDY             \t-tidy                   # tidy (erase) all out-of-date units in work
VLIBRARY_USAGE_VERBOSE          \t-[no]verbose            # verbose listing (list units in each library)
VLIBRARY_USAGE_VERSION          \t-[no]version            # display product version

These usage messages are parameterless. Note the use of \t (tab) to indent these messages - it is recommended that you follow this example.

The last field in the definition is the built-in default value of the option. It should be a null pointer if there is no default value, otherwise a string representing the default value. Switch values should be defaulted to on with the strings "on", "true" or "1" or to off with the strings "off", "false" or "0". Note how the "map" option has a default in the example, whereas the arguments field "" and the "work" option have no default.

Importing Defaults from Ini Files

The command-line parser can import default values from an Ini file. This is handled using the stlplus::ini_manager component.

Ini files are divided into sections. When importing from an Ini file you need to specify which section you are importing from. Then, the cli_parser tests the stlplus::ini_manager to see if any of the options (except for the "" option) are represented by a variable of the same name in the Ini file. For example, the "help" option will be represented by a variable called "help" in the Ini file. If an option is found as a variable, then the value of that variable is read in as the default value.

Taking the definitions from the last section, and using the application name "DoIt" as the Ini file section, here's how the default values could have been represented in an Ini file:

help = off
map = moods.lmf

It is possible to cancel a built-in default from an Ini file without specifying a new value. This is done by simply omitting the value:

map =

This means that there will be no default value for the "map" option despite the fact that the built-in definitions provided one.

As with built-in defaults, switch values are switched on by "on", "true" or "1" and off by "off", "false" and "0". These are case-insensitive. In fact, any other value is currently regarded as off, but this may change in the future so the use of one of these three values is recommended.

Parsing the Command-Line

Once the cli_parser has been set up with a set of definitions and optionally has had default values set drom an Ini file, the next stage is to parse the command-line. This is done by the parse(0 function:

bool cli_parser::parse(char* argv[]);

This takes as its argument the argv vector from main() and parses it. If the parse succeeds, then the function returns true. If there are eny errors, they will be reported by the stlplus::message_handler set up in the constructor and then the parse function will return false.

The parser works like this:

For each argument except argument 0 (the command name), the parser first determines whether the argument is a value or an option. An option is indicated by a leading '-'.

If the argument is a value, it is added as a value to the "" option if there is one. If there is no "" option defined, an error is reported.

If the argument is an option, then the option is looked up in the set of definitions. This lookup uses substring matching, so for example the command-line option "-h" will match the definition for "help". The parser will pick the first option matching the command-line substring. The search is carried out in definition order, so the earliest definitions will have shorter abbreviations. For example, given two definitions "help" and "hello" in that order, both "-h", "-he" and "-hel" will match with "help" and the shortest abbreviation for "hello" will be "-hell".

If a command-line option doesn't match any definition using this method, then it is checked to see if it is prefixed with "-no", since this is how options are negated. The definitions are searched again for an option without this prefix, so for example "-noh" will match with "help".

If no option can be found that matches either of these searches, an error is produced. Otherwise there are three possibilities:

If the definition is a switch kind, then a value is added for that option. The value will be on if the switch was found in its positive form (e.g. "-h", off if it was found in its negated form (e.g. "-noh").

If the definition was a value kind and the option was found in its positive form, then the next argument from argv is read and that becomes the value of the option. If there are no further arguments, an error is reported.

If the definition was a value kind and was negated, then this cancels all previous values of the option including ini file defaults and built-in defaults. This is provided so that users can override defaults from the command-line. Negated value options do not have a value so the next arguement in argv is not read.

In all cases the mode determines what happens to any previous values of the option. If the option is single mode, then all previous values are cancelled. If the option is a multiple mode, any values from lower levels (i.e. Ini file or built-in defaults) are cancelled. If the option is cumulative mode, no previous values are cancelled.

Interpreting the Command-Line

Once the command-line has been successfully parsed, the values read can be interpreted. The set of values available will be the built-in default values, plus the Ini-file default values, plus the command-line values, with the override rules appropriate to the option modes. This gives in effect a composite command line made up of the concatenation of all these values. The composite command-line is then read from left to right.

An example is needed to clarify exactly what is in this composite command line. Take the following definitions:

stlplus::cli_definitions definitions =
    {"",        stlplus::cli_value_kind,  stlplus::cli_multiple_mode,   "VCOMPILE_USAGE_VALUE",   0},
    {"help",    stlplus::cli_switch_kind, stlplus::cli_single_mode,     "VCOMPILE_USAGE_HELP",    0},
    {"87",      stlplus::cli_switch_kind, stlplus::cli_cumulative_mode, "VCOMPILE_USAGE_87",      "off"},

The only built-in default is for the "87" option, so the initial command-line options are:


Now lets say that the following command-line is typed in by the user:

DoIt file1.vhdl -87 file2.vhdl -no87 file3.vhdl

Since the "87" option is cumulative, the command-line does not override the built-in defaults. The result is that the composite options are:

-no87 file1.vhdl -87 file2.vhdl -no87 file3.vhdl

Thus the composite command line will have a total of 6 options.

Options are processed in a loop using the following access functions:

unsigned cli_parser::size(void) const;
std::string cli_parser::name(unsigned i) const;
unsigned cli_parser::id(unsigned i) const;
stlplus::cli_kind_t cli_parser::kind(unsigned i) const;
stlplus::cli_mode_t cli_parser::mode(unsigned i) const;
bool cli_parser::switch_value(unsigned i) const;
std::string cli_parser::string_value(unsigned i) const;

The size function is used to control the for loop that processes the command-line. You should follow the normal C convention:

for (unsigned i = 0; i < parser.size(); i++)

Note that the count goes from zero, not from one as it would if you were processing argv.

Options are accessed from left to right by index. The first thing you do with an option is to get its name (a string) or its ID (an unsigned). The name is the full name of the option, not the abbreviated name entered by the user. If you use names, then the body of the loop will be a series of if statements matching the name of an option with the name of the value:

for (unsigned i = 0; i < parser.size(); i++)
  if ( == "help")
  else if ( == "87")

This is pretty clumsy, but readable. It is sometimes simpler to use IDs instead. Basically, definitions get numbered when they are added to the parser. They are numbered from 0 in the order in which they are added. Thus given the following definitions:

stlplus::cli_parser::definitions definitions =
    {"",        stlplus::cli_value_kind,  stlplus::cli_parser::multiple_mode,   "VCOMPILE_USAGE_VALUE",   0},
    {"help",    stlplus::cli_switch_kind, stlplus::cli_parser::single_mode,     "VCOMPILE_USAGE_HELP",    0},
    {"87",      stlplus::cli_switch_kind, stlplus::cli_parser::cumulative_mode, "VCOMPILE_USAGE_87",      "off"},

Option "" is ID 0, option "help" is ID 1, and so on. Using IDs allows a switch statement to be used instead of a series of if statements:

for (unsigned i = 0; i < parser.size(); i++)
  switch (
  case 0:
  case 1:

There are two methods for getting values depending on the kind of an option. Switch kinds should be read using cli_parser::switch_value() whilst value kind options should be read using cli_parser::string_value(). If you use the wrong function, the exception stlplus::cli_mode_error will be thrown. The switch_value() method returns a bool indicating whether the switch was on (true) or off (false), whilst the string_value() function returns the value of that option as a std::string. Note that the command line values will appear as value mode options with the name "" (or in the example above, ID 0).

Usage Reports

The parser can produce usage reports, for example if the parse fails and you want to report this to the user, or for the "help" option. The usage report is produced by the usage() function:

void cli_parser::usage(void) const;

The usage report is produced using the stlplus::message_handler set up in the constructor and uses the message mnemonics set up in the definitions. It also reports the options that have been set and their origin (for example, built-in default or Ini file. For example:

usage: vcompile { arguments }
    <file>                  # one or more files to compile
    -[no]help               # this help!
    -map <path>             # set the library mapping file (.lmf) to use - default is ./moods.lmf
    -errors <number>        # set the error limit to <number> - default 10
    -work <name>            # make <name> the current work library
    -[no]87                 # VHDL'87 compatibility mode - when off files are compiled in VHDL'93
    -map moods.lmf : from builtin default
    -errors 10 : from builtin default
    -no87 : from builtin default
    -help : from command line

Exceptions thrown

The CLI parser defines three exceptions that can be thrown. All of these are defined as subclasses of std::logic_error as described in the STLplus exceptions philosophy. This means that exceptions will only occur due to programming errors - that is, if you use the CLI parser incorrectly in your program. User errors can never cause an exception.

The following exceptions are defined:

Subclass of std::invalid_argument. Thrown if a command-line argument is accessed with the wrong mode - i.e. attempt to get the value of a switch
Subclass of to std::out_of_range. Thrown for using an index out of range
Subclass of std::invalid_argument. Thrown for passing an illegal argument to a method


Here's the CLI parser part of the source code for a command-line library manager called vlibrary.

#include "cli_parser.hpp"
#include "file_system.hpp"
#include <string>

int main (int argc, char* argv[])
  // work out where the program is installed on the system

  // this program requires that the software is designed with the following
  // directory structure:
  //   <top>
  //     +-bin
  //     |  +- vlibrary.exe    // executable
  //     +-config
  //        +- vlibrary.ini    // Configuration (Ini) file - see stlplus::ini_manager.hpp
  //        +- messages.txt    // Text of all error messages - see stlplus::message_handler.hpp

  // the install_path function returns the folder containing the executable so
  // the root folder is one up from that
  std::string root = stlplus::folder_up(stlplus::install_path(argv[0]));

  // set up an error handler with the one message file
  // first initialise so that messages go to standard error, there's an error
  // limit of 0 (infinite)
  stlplus::message_handler messages(std::cerr, 0);
  // now add the message file

  // set up an Ini file manager
  // This sets up three files - one in the current directory, one in the HOME
  // directory and one in the installation
  stlplus::ini_manager ini_files;

  // set up the definitions for the command-line options. Note the
  // permutations of switch/value and single/multiple settings.
  stlplus::stlplus::cli_definitions_t definitions =
      {"help",    stlplus::cli_switch_kind, stlplus::cli_single_mode,   "VLIBRARY_USAGE_HELP",    0},
      {"create",  stlplus::cli_value_kind,  stlplus::cli_multiple_mode, "VLIBRARY_USAGE_CREATE",  0},
      {"version", stlplus::cli_switch_kind, stlplus::cli_single_mode,   "VLIBRARY_USAGE_VERSION", "on"},

  // construct the parser, loading the definitions, the default values from
  // the Ini files and using the error handler for parser errors
  stlplus::cli_parser parser(definitions, ini_files, "vlibrary", messages);

  // now parse the command line which builds the command-line data structure
  // within the parser - if there are any errors, end now
  if (!parser.parse(argv))
    return -1;

  // now loop through the parsed command extracting the values
  for (unsigned i = 0; i &lt; parser.size(); i++)
    if ( == "help")

      // This demonstrates how to handle a switch-mode argument. First, detect
      // that the option has been specified by testing the name of the option
      // with if ( == "help"). Then, detect the polarity
      // (off/on) of the switch with if (parser.switch_value(i))
      if (parser.switch_value(i))
        // report the command options using the built-in usage() function
    else if ( == "create")
      // create a new library

      // This demonstrates how to handle a value-mode argument. First, detect
      // that the option has been specified as with the above switch-mode
      // argument, then get the value of the option with <tt>string path =
      // parser.string_value(i);
      std::string library = parser.string_value(i);

      // code removed - not relevant to this example
    else if ( == "version")
      if (parser.switch_value(i))
        // report the version of the program - use the error handler directly
        messages.information("VLIBRARY_VERSION", "1.2");
  return messages.error_count();

In order to work correctly, the message file would need message definitions for the STLplus internal messages plus all the messages specific to the vlibrary command. So, given the example above, the message file would look like this:

# messages required by the CLI parser (taken from stlplus/messages/stlplus_messages.txt)
CLI_VALUE_MISSING                option @0 requires a value - end of line was reached instead
CLI_UNRECOGNISED_OPTION          @0 is not a recognised option for this command
CLI_NO_VALUES                    argument @0 is invalid - this program doesn't take command-line arguments
CLI_USAGE_PROGRAM                usage:\n\t@0 { arguments }
CLI_USAGE_DEFINITIONS            arguments:
CLI_USAGE_VALUES                 values:
CLI_USAGE_VALUE_RESULT           \t@0 : from @1
CLI_USAGE_SWITCH_RESULT          \t-@0 : from @1
CLI_USAGE_OPTION_RESULT          \t-@0 @1 : from @2
CLI_INI_HEADER                   configuration files:
CLI_INI_FILE_PRESENT             \t@0
CLI_INI_FILE_ABSENT              \t@0 (not found)

# messages required by vlibrary itself
VLIBRARY_USAGE_HELP             \t-[no]help               # this help!
VLIBRARY_USAGE_CREATE           \t-create <path>          # create and add library in directory <path>
VLIBRARY_USAGE_VERSION          \t-[no]version            # display product version
VLIBRARY_VERSION                  vlibrary version @0 by Andy Rushton

# ... other messages not needed for this example