Table of Contents

Prototype: execresult(command, shell)

Return type: string

The return value is cached.

Description: Execute command and return output (both stdout and stderr) as string.

If the command is not found, the result will be the empty string.

The shell argument decides whether a shell will be used to encapsulate the command. This is necessary in order to combine commands with pipes etc, but remember that each command requires a new process that reads in files beyond CFEngine's control. Thus using a shell is both a performance hog and a potential security issue.


  • command: string, in the range: .+
  • shell: one of
    • noshell
    • useshell
    • powershell



rm -rf /tmp/testhere
mkdir -p /tmp/testhere
touch /tmp/testhere/a
touch /tmp/testhere/b
touch /tmp/testhere/c
touch /tmp/testhere/d
touch /tmp/testhere/e
echo "#!/usr/bin/env sh" >/tmp/testhere/echo-stdout-and-stderr
echo "echo stderr >&2" >>/tmp/testhere/echo-stdout-and-stderr
echo "echo stdout" >>/tmp/testhere/echo-stdout-and-stderr
chmod +x /tmp/testhere/echo-stdout-and-stderr


body common control
      bundlesequence  => { "example" };

bundle agent example
        string => execresult("/bin/ls /tmp/testhere", noshell);

        string => execresult("/tmp/testhere/echo-stdout-and-stderr", noshell);

        string => execresult("/tmp/testhere/echo-stdout-and-stderr 2>/dev/null", useshell);

        string => execresult("/tmp/testhere/echo-stdout-and-stderr 1>/dev/null", useshell);

      "/bin/ls /tmp/testhere returned '$(my_result)'";
      "my_result_with_stdout_and_stderr == '$(my_result_with_stdout_and_stderr)'";
      "my_result_with_stdout == '$(my_result_with_stdout)'";
      "my_result_with_stderr == '$(my_result_with_stderr)'";



R: /bin/ls /tmp/testhere returned 'a
R: my_result_with_stdout_and_stderr == 'stderr
R: my_result_with_stdout == 'stdout'
R: my_result_with_stderr == 'stderr'

Notes: you should never use this function to execute commands that make changes to the system, or perform lengthy computations. Such an operation is beyond CFEngine's ability to guarantee convergence, and on multiple passes and during syntax verification these function calls are executed, resulting in system changes that are covert. Calls to execresult should be for discovery and information extraction only. Effectively calls to this function will be also repeatedly executed by cf-promises when it does syntax checking, which is highly undesirable if the command is expensive. Consider using commands promises instead, which have locking and are not evaluated by cf-promises. If capturing stderr is undesirable, consider useshell and redirecting it to /dev/null.

See also: returnszero().

Change: policy change in CFEngine 3.0.5. Previously newlines were changed for spaces, now newlines are preserved.