Parsing command-line options


The class ParseOptions handles the parsing of command-line options given to main() via argc and argv. First we give an example of how we invoke a typical Kaldi program from the command-line:

   gmm-align --transition-scale=10.0 --beam=75 \
       exp/mono/tree exp/mono/30.mdl data/L.fst \
       'ark:add-deltas --print-args=false scp:data/train.scp ark:- |' \
        ark:data/train.tra ark:exp/tri/0.ali

The command-line options, which only have a long form (there are no one-letter options), must appear before the positional arguments. In this case there are six positional arguments, starting from "exp/mono/tree"; notice that the one starting with "ark:add-deltas" is a single string with spaces in it; the single-quotes get interpreted by the shell; this argument gets invoked as a pipe.

Example of parsing command-line options

We will illustrate how these options get handled at the C++ level by introducing some of the code from (we have modified it slightly to make it clearer):

int main(int argc, char *argv[])
try { // try-catch block is standard and relates to handling of errors.
using namespace kaldi;
const char *usage =
"Align features given [GMM-based] models.\n"
"Usage: align-gmm [options] tree-in model-in lexicon-fst-in feature-rspecifier "
"transcriptions-rspecifier alignments-wspecifier\n";
// Initialize the ParseOptions object with the usage string.
ParseOptions po(usage);
// Declare options and set default values.
bool binary = false;
BaseFloat beam = 200.0;
// Below is a structure containing options; its initializer sets defaults.
// Register the options with the ParseOptions object.
po.Register("binary", &binary, "Write output in binary mode");
po.Register("beam", &beam, "Decoding beam");
// The command-line options get parsed here.
po.Read(argc, argv);
// Check that there are a valid number of positional arguments.
if(po.NumArgs() != 6) {
// The positional arguments get read here (they can only be obtained
// from ParseOptions as strings).
std::string tree_in_filename = po.GetArg(1);
std::string alignment_wspecifier = po.GetArg(6);
} catch(const std::exception& e) {
std::cerr << e.what();
return -1;

The code above is mostly self-explanatory. In a normal Kaldi program, the sequence is as follows:

  • You initialize the ParseOptions object with the usage string.
  • You declare, and set default values for, the optional arguments (and options structures).
  • You register the command-line options with the ParseOptions object (options structures have their own Register functions that do the same for all the variables they contain).
  • You do "po.Read(argc, argv);" [This will exit the program if invalid options were given]
  • You check that the number of positional options po.NumArgs() is in the valid range for your program.
  • You obtain the positional arguments with po.GetArg(1) and so on; for optional positional arguments that may be out of range, the convenience function po.GetOptArg(n) returns the n'th argument, or the empty string if n was out of range.

Typically when writing a new command-line Kaldi program, it will be easiest to copy an existing one and modify it.

Implicit command-line arguments

Certain command-line options are automatically registered by the ParseOptions object itself. These include the following:

  • –config This option loads command-line options from a config file. E.g. if we do –config=configs/my.conf, the file my.conf might contain:
          --first-option=15  # This is the first option
          --second-option=false # This is the second option
  • –print-args This boolean option controls whether the program prints the command-line arguments to the standard error (default is true); –print-args=false will turn this off.
  • –help This boolean argument, if true will cause the program to print out a usage message (like other boolean arguments, just –help counts as true). You can usually get the usage message just by omitting all command-line arguments, because most programs require positional arguments.
  • –verbose This controls the verbose level, so that messages logged with KALDI_VLOG will get printed out. More is higher (e.g. –verbose=2 is typical).