Extend kubectl with plugins
- The version name is vX where X is an integer.
- Stable versions of features will appear in released software for many subsequent versions.
This guide demonstrates how to install and write extensions for kubectl. By thinking of core
kubectl commands as essential building blocks for interacting with a Kubernetes cluster, a cluster administrator can think
of plugins as a means of utilizing these building blocks to create more complex behavior. Plugins extend
kubectl with new sub-commands, allowing for new and custom features not included in the main distribution of
- Before you begin
- Installing kubectl plugins
- Writing kubectl plugins
- Distributing kubectl plugins
- What's next
Before you begin
You need to have a working
kubectl binary installed.
Note: Plugins were officially introduced as an alpha feature in the v1.8.0 release. They have been re-worked in the v1.12.0 release to support a wider range of use-cases. So, while some parts of the plugins feature were already available in previous versions, a
kubectlversion of 1.12.0 or later is recommended if you are following these docs.
Installing kubectl plugins
A plugin is nothing more than a standalone executable file, whose name begins with
kubectl-. To install a plugin, simply move its executable file to anywhere on your PATH.
You can also discover and install kubectl plugins available in the open source using Krew. Krew is a plugin manager maintained by the Kubernetes SIG CLI community.
Caution: Kubectl plugins installed via the Krew centralized index are not audited for security. You should install and run third-party plugins at your own risk, since they are arbitrary programs running on your machine.
kubectl provides a command
kubectl plugin list that searches your PATH for valid plugin executables.
Executing this command causes a traversal of all files in your PATH. Any files that are executable, and begin with
kubectl- will show up in the order in which they are present in your PATH in this command’s output.
A warning will be included for any files beginning with
kubectl- that are not executable.
A warning will also be included for any valid plugin files that overlap each other’s name.
It is currently not possible to create plugins that overwrite existing
kubectl commands. For example, creating a plugin
kubectl-version will cause that plugin to never be executed, as the existing
kubectl version command will always take precedence over it. Due to this limitation, it is also not possible to use plugins to add new subcommands to existing
kubectl commands. For example, adding a subcommand
kubectl create foo by naming your plugin
kubectl-create-foo will cause that plugin to be ignored. Warnings will appear under the output of
kubectl plugin list for any valid plugins that attempt to do this.
Writing kubectl plugins
You can write a plugin in any programming language or script that allows you to write command-line commands.
There is no plugin installation or pre-loading required. Plugin executables receive the inherited environment from the
A plugin determines which command path it wishes to implement based on its name. For example, a plugin wanting to provide a new command
kubectl foo, would simply be named
kubectl-foo, and live somewhere in the user’s PATH.
#!/bin/bash # optional argument handling if [[ "$1" == "version" ]] then echo "1.0.0" exit 0 fi # optional argument handling if [[ "$1" == "config" ]] then echo $KUBECONFIG exit 0 fi echo "I am a plugin named kubectl-foo"
Using a plugin
To use the above plugin, simply make it executable:
sudo chmod +x ./kubectl-foo
and place it anywhere in your PATH:
sudo mv ./kubectl-foo /usr/local/bin
You may now invoke your plugin as a
I am a plugin named kubectl-foo
All args and flags are passed as-is to the executable:
kubectl foo version
All environment variables are also passed as-is to the executable:
export KUBECONFIG=~/.kube/config kubectl foo config
KUBECONFIG=/etc/kube/config kubectl foo config
Additionally, the first argument that is passed to a plugin will always be the full path to the location where it was invoked (
$0 would equal
/usr/local/bin/kubectl-foo in our example above).
Naming a plugin
As seen in the example above, a plugin determines the command path that it will implement based on its filename. Every sub-command in the command path that a plugin targets, is separated by a dash (
For example, a plugin that wishes to be invoked whenever the command
kubectl foo bar baz is invoked by the user, would have the filename of
Flags and argument handling
Note: Unlike previous versions of
kubectl, the plugin mechanism will not create any custom, plugin-specific values or environment variables to a plugin process. This means that environment variables such as
KUBECTL_PLUGINS_CURRENT_NAMESPACEare no longer provided to a plugin. Plugins must parse all of the arguments passed to them by a user, and handle flag validation as part of their own implementation. For plugins written in Go, a set of utilities has been provided under k8s.io/cli-runtime to assist with this.
kubectl-foo-bar-baz plugin from the above scenario, we further explore additional cases where users invoke our plugin while providing additional flags and arguments.
For example, in a situation where a user invokes the command
kubectl foo bar baz arg1 --flag=value arg2, the plugin mechanism will first try to find the plugin with the longest possible name, which in this case
kubectl-foo-bar-baz-arg1. Upon not finding that plugin, it then treats the last dash-separated value as an argument (
arg1 in this case), and attempts to find the next longest possible name,
Upon finding a plugin with this name, it then invokes that plugin, passing all args and flags after its name to the plugin executable.
# create a plugin echo -e '#!/bin/bash\n\necho "My first command-line argument was $1"' > kubectl-foo-bar-baz sudo chmod +x ./kubectl-foo-bar-baz # "install" our plugin by placing it on our PATH sudo mv ./kubectl-foo-bar-baz /usr/local/bin # ensure our plugin is recognized by kubectl kubectl plugin list
The following kubectl-compatible plugins are available: /usr/local/bin/kubectl-foo-bar-baz
# test that calling our plugin via a "kubectl" command works # even when additional arguments and flags are passed to our # plugin executable by the user. kubectl foo bar baz arg1 --meaningless-flag=true
My first command-line argument was arg1
As you can see, our plugin was found based on the
kubectl command specified by a user, and all extra arguments and flags were passed as-is to the plugin executable once it was found.
Names with dashes and underscores
kubectl plugin mechanism uses the dash (
-) in plugin filenames to separate the sequence of sub-commands processed by the plugin, it is still possible to create a plugin
command containing dashes in its commandline invocation by using underscores (
_) in its filename.
# create a plugin containing an underscore in its filename echo -e '#!/bin/bash\n\necho "I am a plugin with a dash in my name"' > ./kubectl-foo_bar sudo chmod +x ./kubectl-foo_bar # move the plugin into your PATH sudo mv ./kubectl-foo_bar /usr/local/bin # our plugin can now be invoked from `kubectl` like so: kubectl foo-bar
I am a plugin with a dash in my name
Note that the introduction of underscores to a plugin filename does not prevent us from having commands such as
The command from the above example, can be invoked using either a dash (
-) or an underscore (
# our plugin can be invoked with a dash kubectl foo-bar
I am a plugin with a dash in my name
# it can also be invoked using an underscore kubectl foo_bar
I am a plugin with a dash in my name
Name conflicts and overshadowing
It is possible to have multiple plugins with the same filename in different locations throughout your PATH.
For example, given a PATH with the following value:
PATH=/usr/local/bin/plugins:/usr/local/bin/moreplugins, a copy of plugin
kubectl-foo could exist in
such that the output of the
kubectl plugin list command is:
PATH=/usr/local/bin/plugins:/usr/local/bin/moreplugins kubectl plugin list
The following kubectl-compatible plugins are available: /usr/local/bin/plugins/kubectl-foo /usr/local/bin/moreplugins/kubectl-foo - warning: /usr/local/bin/moreplugins/kubectl-foo is overshadowed by a similarly named plugin: /usr/local/bin/plugins/kubectl-foo error: one plugin warning was found
In the above scenario, the warning under
/usr/local/bin/moreplugins/kubectl-foo tells us that this plugin will never be executed. Instead, the executable that appears first in our PATH,
/usr/local/bin/plugins/kubectl-foo, will always be found and executed first by the
kubectl plugin mechanism.
A way to resolve this issue is to ensure that the location of the plugin that you wish to use with
kubectl always comes first in your PATH. For example, if we wanted to always use
/usr/local/bin/moreplugins/kubectl-foo anytime that the
kubectl foo was invoked, we would simply change the value of our PATH to be
Invocation of the longest executable filename
There is another kind of overshadowing that can occur with plugin filenames. Given two plugins present in a user’s PATH
kubectl plugin mechanism will always choose the longest possible plugin name for a given user command. Some examples below, clarify this further:
# for a given kubectl command, the plugin with the longest possible filename will always be preferred kubectl foo bar baz
Plugin kubectl-foo-bar-baz is executed
kubectl foo bar
Plugin kubectl-foo-bar is executed
kubectl foo bar baz buz
Plugin kubectl-foo-bar-baz is executed, with "buz" as its first argument
kubectl foo bar buz
Plugin kubectl-foo-bar is executed, with "buz" as its first argument
This design choice ensures that plugin sub-commands can be implemented across multiple files, if needed, and that these sub-commands can be nested under a “parent” plugin command:
kubectl-parent kubectl-parent-subcommand kubectl-parent-subcommand-subsubcommand
Checking for plugin warnings
You can use the aforementioned
kubectl plugin list command to ensure that your plugin is visible by
kubectl, and verify that there are no warnings preventing it from being called as a
kubectl plugin list
The following kubectl-compatible plugins are available: test/fixtures/pkg/kubectl/plugins/kubectl-foo /usr/local/bin/kubectl-foo - warning: /usr/local/bin/kubectl-foo is overshadowed by a similarly named plugin: test/fixtures/pkg/kubectl/plugins/kubectl-foo plugins/kubectl-invalid - warning: plugins/kubectl-invalid identified as a kubectl plugin, but it is not executable error: 2 plugin warnings were found
Using the command line runtime package
As part of the plugin mechanism update in the v1.12.0 release, an additional set of utilities have been made available to plugin authors. These utilities exist under the k8s.io/cli-runtime repository, and can be used by plugins written in Go to parse and update a user’s KUBECONFIG file, obtain REST clients to talk to the API server, and automatically bind flags associated with configuration and printing.
Plugins do not have to be written in Go in order to be recognized as valid plugins by
kubectl, but they do have to use Go in order to take advantage of
the tools and utilities in the CLI Runtime repository.
See the Sample CLI Plugin for an example usage of the tools provided in the CLI Runtime repo.
Distributing kubectl plugins
If you have developed a plugin for others to use, you should consider how you package it, distribute it and deliver updates to your users.
Krew project offers a cross-platform way to package and distribute your plugins. This way, you use a single packaging format for all target platforms (Linux, Windows, macOS etc) and deliver updates to your users. Since Krew also maintains a plugin index, others can discover your plugin and install it. Read the Krew developer guide to learn how to package kubectl plugins for Krew.
Alternatively, you can use traditional package managers such as,
on Linux, Chocolatey on Windows, Homebrew on macOS, since kubectl plugins are
just executables placed somewhere in client’s PATH. This comes with the burden
of updating your kubectl plugin’s distribution package in multiple platforms
when you release a newer version.
- Install Krew – kubectl plugin manager to discover and install plugins.
- Check the Sample CLI Plugin repository for a detailed example of a plugin written in Go.
- In case of any questions, feel free to reach out to the CLI SIG team.
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