ESP-IDF provides console component, which includes building blocks needed to develop an interactive console over serial port. This component includes the following features:

  • Line editing, provided by linenoise library. This includes handling of backspace and arrow keys, scrolling through command history, command auto-completion, and argument hints.

  • Splitting of command line into arguments.

  • Argument parsing, provided by argtable3 library. This library includes APIs used for parsing GNU style command line arguments.

  • Functions for registration and dispatching of commands.

  • Functions to establish a basic REPL (Read-Evaluate-Print-Loop) environment.


These features can be used together or independently. For example, it is possible to use line editing and command registration features, but use getopt or custom code for argument parsing, instead of argtable3. Likewise, it is possible to use simpler means of command input (such as fgets) together with the rest of the means for command splitting and argument parsing.

Line editing

Line editing feature lets users compose commands by typing them, erasing symbols using the ‘backspace’ key, navigating within the command using the left/right keys, navigating to previously typed commands using the up/down keys, and performing autocompletion using the ‘tab’ key.


This feature relies on ANSI escape sequence support in the terminal application. As such, serial monitors which display raw UART data can not be used together with the line editing library. If you see [6n or similar escape sequence when running system/console example instead of a command prompt (e.g. esp> ), it means that the serial monitor does not support escape sequences. Programs which are known to work are GNU screen, minicom, and esp-idf-monitor (which can be invoked using monitor from project directory).

Here is an overview of functions provided by linenoise library.


Linenoise library does not need explicit initialization. However, some configuration defaults may need to be changed before invoking the main line editing function.


Clear terminal screen using an escape sequence and position the cursor at the top left corner.


Switch between single line and multi line editing modes. In single line mode, if the length of the command exceeds the width of the terminal, the command text is scrolled within the line to show the end of the text. In this case the beginning of the text is hidden. Single line mode needs less data to be sent to refresh screen on each key press, so exhibits less glitching compared to the multi line mode. On the flip side, editing commands and copying command text from terminal in single line mode is harder. Default is single line mode.


Set whether linenoise library will return a zero-length string (if true) or NULL (if false) for empty lines. By default, zero-length strings are returned.


Set maximum length of the line for linenoise library. Default length is 4096 bytes. The default value can be updated to optimize RAM memory usage.

Main loop


In most cases, console applications have some form of read/eval loop. linenoise() is the single function which handles user’s key presses and returns the completed line once the ‘enter’ key is pressed. As such, it handles the ‘read’ part of the loop.


This function must be called to release the command line buffer obtained from linenoise() function.

Hints and completions


When the user presses the ‘tab’ key, linenoise library invokes the completion callback. The callback should inspect the contents of the command typed so far and provide a list of possible completions using calls to linenoiseAddCompletion() function. linenoiseSetCompletionCallback() function should be called to register this completion callback, if completion feature is desired.

console component provides a ready made function to provide completions for registered commands, esp_console_get_completion() (see below).


Function to be called by completion callback to inform the library about possible completions of the currently typed command.


Whenever user input changes, linenoise invokes the hints callback. This callback can inspect the command line typed so far, and provide a string with hints (which can include list of command arguments, for example). The library then displays the hint text on the same line where editing happens, possibly with a different color.


If the hint string returned by hints callback is dynamically allocated or needs to be otherwise recycled, the function which performs such cleanup should be registered via linenoiseSetFreeHintsCallback().



This function sets the number of most recently typed commands to be kept in memory. Users can navigate the history using the up/down arrows keys.


Linenoise does not automatically add commands to history. Instead, applications need to call this function to add command strings to the history.


Function saves command history from RAM to a text file, for example on an SD card or on a filesystem in flash memory.


Counterpart to linenoiseHistorySave(), loads history from a file.


Releases memory used to store command history. Call this function when done working with linenoise library.

Splitting of command line into arguments

console component provides esp_console_split_argv() function to split command line string into arguments. The function returns the number of arguments found (argc) and fills an array of pointers which can be passed as argv argument to any function which accepts arguments in argc, argv format.

The command line is split into arguments according to the following rules:

  • Arguments are separated by spaces

  • If spaces within arguments are required, they can be escaped using \ (backslash) character.

  • Other escape sequences which are recognized are \\ (which produces literal backslash) and \", which produces a double quote.

  • Arguments can be quoted using double quotes. Quotes may appear only in the beginning and at the end of the argument. Quotes within the argument must be escaped as mentioned above. Quotes surrounding the argument are stripped by esp_console_split_argv function.


  • abc def 1 20 .3 ⟶ [ abc, def, 1, 20, .3 ]

  • abc "123 456" def ⟶ [ abc, 123 456, def ]

  • `a\ b\\c\" ⟶ [ a b\c" ]

Argument parsing

For argument parsing, console component includes argtable3 library. Please see tutorial for an introduction to argtable3. Github repository also includes examples.

Command registration and dispatching

console component includes utility functions which handle registration of commands, matching commands typed by the user to registered ones, and calling these commands with the arguments given on the command line.

Application first initializes command registration module using a call to esp_console_init(), and calls esp_console_cmd_register() function to register command handlers.

For each command, application provides the following information (in the form of esp_console_cmd_t structure):

  • Command name (string without spaces)

  • Help text explaining what the command does

  • Optional hint text listing the arguments of the command. If application uses Argtable3 for argument parsing, hint text can be generated automatically by providing a pointer to argtable argument definitions structure instead.

  • The command handler function.

A few other functions are provided by the command registration module:


This function takes the command line string, splits it into argc/argv argument list using esp_console_split_argv(), looks up the command in the list of registered components, and if it is found, executes its handler.


Adds help command to the list of registered commands. This command prints the list of all the registered commands, along with their arguments and help texts.


Callback function to be used with linenoiseSetCompletionCallback() from linenoise library. Provides completions to linenoise based on the list of registered commands.


Callback function to be used with linenoiseSetHintsCallback() from linenoise library. Provides argument hints for registered commands to linenoise.

Initialize console REPL environment

To establish a basic REPL environment, console component provides several useful APIs, combining those functions described above.

In a typical application, you only need to call esp_console_new_repl_uart() to initialize the REPL environment based on UART device, including driver install, basic console configuration, spawning a thread to do REPL task and register several useful commands (e.g. help).

After that, you can register your own commands with esp_console_cmd_register(). The REPL environment keeps in init state until you call esp_console_start_repl().

Application Example

Example application illustrating usage of the console component is available in system/console directory. This example shows how to initialize UART and VFS functions, set up linenoise library, read and handle commands from UART, and store command history in Flash. See in the example directory for more details.

Besides that, ESP-IDF contains several useful examples which are based on the console component and can be treated as “tools” when developing applications. For example, peripherals/i2c/i2c_tools, wifi/iperf.

API Reference

Header File


esp_err_t esp_console_init(const esp_console_config_t *config)

initialize console module


Call this once before using other console module features


config – console configuration


  • ESP_OK on success

  • ESP_ERR_NO_MEM if out of memory

  • ESP_ERR_INVALID_STATE if already initialized

  • ESP_ERR_INVALID_ARG if the configuration is invalid

esp_err_t esp_console_deinit(void)

de-initialize console module


Call this once when done using console module functions


  • ESP_OK on success

  • ESP_ERR_INVALID_STATE if not initialized yet

esp_err_t esp_console_cmd_register(const esp_console_cmd_t *cmd)

Register console command.


cmd – pointer to the command description; can point to a temporary value


  • ESP_OK on success

  • ESP_ERR_NO_MEM if out of memory

  • ESP_ERR_INVALID_ARG if command description includes invalid arguments

esp_err_t esp_console_run(const char *cmdline, int *cmd_ret)

Run command line.

  • cmdline – command line (command name followed by a number of arguments)

  • cmd_ret[out] return code from the command (set if command was run)


  • ESP_OK, if command was run

  • ESP_ERR_INVALID_ARG, if the command line is empty, or only contained whitespace

  • ESP_ERR_NOT_FOUND, if command with given name wasn’t registered

  • ESP_ERR_INVALID_STATE, if esp_console_init wasn’t called

size_t esp_console_split_argv(char *line, char **argv, size_t argv_size)

Split command line into arguments in place.

* - This function finds whitespace-separated arguments in the given input line.
*     'abc def 1 20 .3' -> [ 'abc', 'def', '1', '20', '.3' ]
* - Argument which include spaces may be surrounded with quotes. In this case
*   spaces are preserved and quotes are stripped.
*     'abc "123 456" def' -> [ 'abc', '123 456', 'def' ]
* - Escape sequences may be used to produce backslash, double quote, and space:
*     'a\ b\\c\"' -> [ 'a b\c"' ]


Pointers to at most argv_size - 1 arguments are returned in argv array. The pointer after the last one (i.e. argv[argc]) is set to NULL.

  • line – pointer to buffer to parse; it is modified in place

  • argv – array where the pointers to arguments are written

  • argv_size – number of elements in argv_array (max. number of arguments)


number of arguments found (argc)

void esp_console_get_completion(const char *buf, linenoiseCompletions *lc)

Callback which provides command completion for linenoise library.

When using linenoise for line editing, command completion support can be enabled like this:


  • buf – the string typed by the user

  • lc – linenoiseCompletions to be filled in

const char *esp_console_get_hint(const char *buf, int *color, int *bold)

Callback which provides command hints for linenoise library.

When using linenoise for line editing, hints support can be enabled as follows:

linenoiseSetHintsCallback((linenoiseHintsCallback*) &esp_console_get_hint);

The extra cast is needed because linenoiseHintsCallback is defined as returning a char* instead of const char*.

  • buf – line typed by the user

  • color[out] ANSI color code to be used when displaying the hint

  • bold[out] set to 1 if hint has to be displayed in bold


string containing the hint text. This string is persistent and should not be freed (i.e. linenoiseSetFreeHintsCallback should not be used).

esp_err_t esp_console_register_help_command(void)

Register a ‘help’ command.

Default ‘help’ command prints the list of registered commands along with hints and help strings.


  • ESP_OK on success

  • ESP_ERR_INVALID_STATE, if esp_console_init wasn’t called

esp_err_t esp_console_new_repl_uart(const esp_console_dev_uart_config_t *dev_config, const esp_console_repl_config_t *repl_config, esp_console_repl_t **ret_repl)

Establish a console REPL environment over UART driver.


This function is meant to be used in the examples to make the code more compact. Applications which use console functionality should be based on the underlying linenoise and esp_console functions.


This is an all-in-one function to establish the environment needed for REPL, includes:

  • Install the UART driver on the console UART (8n1, 115200, REF_TICK clock source)

  • Configures the stdin/stdout to go through the UART driver

  • Initializes linenoise

  • Spawn new thread to run REPL in the background

  • dev_config[in] UART device configuration

  • repl_config[in] REPL configuration

  • ret_repl[out] return REPL handle after initialization succeed, return NULL otherwise


  • ESP_OK on success

  • ESP_FAIL Parameter error

esp_err_t esp_console_start_repl(esp_console_repl_t *repl)

Start REPL environment.


Once the REPL gets started, it won’t be stopped until the user calls repl->del(repl) to destroy the REPL environment.


repl[in] REPL handle returned from esp_console_new_repl_xxx


  • ESP_OK on success

  • ESP_ERR_INVALID_STATE, if repl has started already


struct esp_console_config_t

Parameters for console initialization.

Public Members

size_t max_cmdline_length

length of command line buffer, in bytes

size_t max_cmdline_args

maximum number of command line arguments to parse

int hint_color

ASCII color code of hint text.

int hint_bold

Set to 1 to print hint text in bold.

struct esp_console_repl_config_t

Parameters for console REPL (Read Eval Print Loop)

Public Members

uint32_t max_history_len

maximum length for the history

const char *history_save_path

file path used to save history commands, set to NULL won’t save to file system

uint32_t task_stack_size

repl task stack size

uint32_t task_priority

repl task priority

const char *prompt

prompt (NULL represents default: “esp> “)

size_t max_cmdline_length

maximum length of a command line. If 0, default value will be used

struct esp_console_dev_uart_config_t

Parameters for console device: UART.

Public Members

int channel

UART channel number (count from zero)

int baud_rate

Comunication baud rate.

int tx_gpio_num

GPIO number for TX path, -1 means using default one.

int rx_gpio_num

GPIO number for RX path, -1 means using default one.

struct esp_console_cmd_t

Console command description.

Public Members

const char *command

Command name. Must not be NULL, must not contain spaces. The pointer must be valid until the call to esp_console_deinit.

const char *help

Help text for the command, shown by help command. If set, the pointer must be valid until the call to esp_console_deinit. If not set, the command will not be listed in ‘help’ output.

const char *hint

Hint text, usually lists possible arguments. If set to NULL, and ‘argtable’ field is non-NULL, hint will be generated automatically

esp_console_cmd_func_t func

Pointer to a function which implements the command.

void *argtable

Array or structure of pointers to arg_xxx structures, may be NULL. Used to generate hint text if ‘hint’ is set to NULL. Array/structure which this field points to must end with an arg_end. Only used for the duration of esp_console_cmd_register call.

struct esp_console_repl_s

Console REPL base structure.

Public Members

esp_err_t (*del)(esp_console_repl_t *repl)

Delete console REPL environment.

Param repl

[in] REPL handle returned from esp_console_new_repl_xxx


  • ESP_OK on success

  • ESP_FAIL on errors



Default console configuration value.


Default console repl configuration value.


Type Definitions

typedef struct linenoiseCompletions linenoiseCompletions
typedef int (*esp_console_cmd_func_t)(int argc, char **argv)

Console command main function.

Param argc

number of arguments

Param argv

array with argc entries, each pointing to a zero-terminated string argument


console command return code, 0 indicates “success”

typedef struct esp_console_repl_s esp_console_repl_t

Type defined for console REPL.