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A command line app to usher containers to production

Essentially it allows orchestration of lots of different command line applications into a single configuration file.


Usher can be installed globally with npm install -g usher-cli, allowing presets to be run by inputting usher run <preset-name> on the command line.

If you'd rather not install globally, Usher's runtime is in src/cli.js, and node <path-to-cli.js> can replace usher in all examples.


To list presets:

$ usher list [-f config-file]
-f config-file: File that will be used for configuration. Default usher.yml.

To list a preset with further detail (any sub-tasks or sub-actions with descriptions will be listed):

$ usher list [-f config-file] [preset]
-f config-file: File that will be used for configuration. Default usher.yml.
[preset]: Preset to list in further detail. Preset must match name as listed by usher list.

To run a preset:

$ usher run [-f config-file -q/-v] <task-name> [default-vars]
task-name: Name of the task to run. Required.
default-vars: var=value pairs that will become the default value for variables. Optional.
-f, --file config-file: File that will be used for configuration. Default usher.yml.
-q, --quiet: Quiet mode. Only errors will be logged.
-v, --verbose: Verbose mode.


Configuration is defined in a YAML or JSON file, by default named usher.yml. Configuration consists of named tasks, default variables, and import declarations.

The first line of configuration must contain the property version: 2 to use the configuration format described below. Files without it will use the old configuration format which is not compatible.


A task is a function that is run with usher run <task-name>. In imports tasks can be defined as plain Javascript functions of state, but in configuration they follow this format:

    description: Runs my task
    do: shell
    log_prefix: PREFIX
    command: echo my task!
        retries: 5

Tasks are named objects with the properties:

  • do <String> Required. The name of the function to execute. This may be a default function, an imported function, or even another task defined in the same file.
  • description <String> A string describing the task. Will be displayed in usher list. Optional, for documentation purposes only.
  • log_prefix A string that is prefixed to any console log oputput for this task. Useful when multiple calls to the same task are in use.
  • options <Object> Task-level options like retry. See below for available options.
  • Any other properties will be passed onto the do function. Each function will define its own set of named arguments that it will use. For the shell command, beware that the properties defined in the usher file can overwrite those used by child_process.exec module. For example, if you define an Usher property called uid then the value of this will be used when the shell command executes (regardless of where the property is defined - it could be defined in a separate task). To avoid confusion, it's best not to create property names that match those used by child_process.exec. See the shell task below which also lists these properties.

Task options


Retries the task if it fails. Uses the promise-retry package and takes all of its arguments:

  • retries <Number>: The maximum amount of times to retry the operation. Default is 10.
  • factor <Number>: The exponential factor to use. Default is 2.
  • minTimeout <Number>: The number of milliseconds before starting the first retry. Default is 1000.
  • maxTimeout <Number>: The maximum number of milliseconds between two retries. Default is Infinity.
  • randomize <Bool>: Randomizes the timeouts by multiplying with a factor between 1 to 2. Default is false.

Saves the output of the task in a variable. Takes one value, the name of the variable to register to.

register: var_name
Register last

Saves the output of the last task to be run in a variable. Takes one value, the name of the variable to register to.

register_last: var_name

This will only produce a noticable difference from register when the task it is attached to calls several subtasks. Can be used alongside register. e.g.

version: '2'


    do: sequence
      - do: shell
        command: echo "foo"
      - do: shell
        command: echo "bar"

    do: sequence
      - do: subtask
          register: everything
          register_last: last_only

In the above example the variable everything will be foo,\nbar whereas last_only will be bar

Ignore errors

Errors in this task won't mark it as failed. This is mainly useful for tasks like sequence where execution stops if a task fails. Takes one value, true if errors should be ignored, false if not (which is the same as the option not being present at all).

Task Cleanup

If any of the commands in an Usher task chain fails then Usher will attempt to execute a task named catch. Use this to clean up any resouces that may be in an inconsistent state. You can override the name of the catch task by passing catch_task={task_name} on the Usher command line.

Similary, a task called finally will be called after the Usher task has completed (even after catch has completed). Again, you can override this task name by supplying finally_task={task_name} on the command line.


version: '2'


    do: shell
    command: false        # returns exit code 1
    catch_task: catch     # will default to catch task anywaway if this line is missing
    finally_task: finally # same here for finally

    do: shell
    command: echo "Caught it!"

    do: shell
    command: echo "Finally done!"

Default tasks

These tasks are always available without having to be imported. Think of them as usher's standard library.


Uses child_process.exec to run a command in a shell. Takes the same arguments as exec, that is:

  • command <String> Required. The command to run, with space-separated arguments
  • cwd <String> Current working directory of the child process
  • env <Object> Environment key-value pairs
  • encoding <String> (Default: 'utf8')
  • shell <String> Shell to execute the command with (Default: '/bin/sh' on UNIX, 'cmd.exe' on Windows, The shell should understand the -c switch on UNIX or /s /c on Windows. On Windows, command line parsing should be compatible with cmd.exe.)
  • timeout <Number> (Default: 0)
  • maxBuffer <Number> largest amount of data (in bytes) allowed on stdout or stderr - if exceeded child process is killed (Default: 200*1024)
  • killSignal <String> (Default: 'SIGTERM')
  • uid <Number> Sets the user identity of the process.
  • gid <Number> Sets the group identity of the process.

stdout/stderr will be logged to output. If the command exits with an exit code other than 0, the task will fail.


Runs a sequence of tasks. Takes a single argument:

  • actions Required. The tasks to run. Must be valid task objects (that is, objects with a do attribute) or references to valid functions.

If any task fails, the sequence will immediately be interrupted and fail. Following tasks will not run.


Runs an array of tasks in parallel. Takes a single argument:

  • actions <Array> Required. The tasks to run. Must be valid task objects (that is, objects with a do attribute) or references to valid functions.

The tasks will not be run in order. All tasks will be attempted, but if any one fails the parallel will be marked as failed.


Runs a task once for each item in an array, putting that item into a given variable. Essentially, this works like a standard foreach loop. Takes the following arguments:

  • every <String> Required. The variable name to replace with the array item on each iteration.
  • in <Array> Required. The array to iterate over.
  • exec <String> Required. The name of the task to run on each iteration.


Usher keeps a register of variables. At any given time, the state of a variable is determined by (in hierarchical order):

  • The state defined in the vars object in the configuration file.
  • The state passed in via the command line in var=value pairs.
  • The state defined in the parent tasks (merged in hierarchical order). If the register option is set, it will save the variable in the parent scope of the task in question.
  • The state defined in the current task.


Variables are referenced using ERB syntax. If a variable reference is defined as the only value for a property, the full contents of the variable will be inserted. Example:

    - host1
    - host2
    do: for
    every: host
    in: <%=hosts%>
    exec: deploy

Will resolve to:

  do: for
  every: host
    - host1
    - host2
  exec: deploy

In contrast, if the variable reference occurs embedded in a string a string representation of the variable will be interpolated at that point in the string. This allows us to do things like this:

  message: Hello world!
    do: shell
    command: echo <%=message%>


Tasks can be imported from other files or npm modules. This is done in a root-level include block in configuration:

  - from: usher-cli-docker
      - compose as docker-compose

include takes an array of import statements. These are composed of:

  • from <String> Required. The source to import from. Accepts any string that npm install does, so relative paths, npm modules, git urls...
  • import <Array> Required. The functions to import. May be simply the names of the functions, or optionally include an as [local-name] suffix to import them with a different name than they are declared with in their module.

Version 1 Documentation

Legacy documentation for usher v1 can be found here




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