Getting started with the CLI

python-gitlab provides a gitlab command-line tool to interact with GitLab servers.

This is especially convenient for running quick ad-hoc commands locally, easily interacting with the API inside GitLab CI, or with more advanced shell scripting when integrating with other tooling.


gitlab allows setting configuration options via command-line arguments, environment variables, and configuration files.

For a complete list of global CLI options and their environment variable equivalents, see CLI reference (gitlab command).

With no configuration provided, gitlab will default to unauthenticated requests against

With no configuration but running inside a GitLab CI job, it will default to authenticated requests using the current job token against the current instance (via CI_SERVER_URL and CI_JOB_TOKEN environment variables).


Please note the job token has very limited permissions and can only be used with certain endpoints. You may need to provide a personal access token instead.

When you provide configuration, values are evaluated with the following precedence:

  1. Explicitly provided CLI arguments,

  2. Environment variables,

  3. Configuration files:

    1. explicitly defined config files:

      1. via the --config-file CLI argument,

      2. via the PYTHON_GITLAB_CFG environment variable,

    2. user-specific config file,

    3. system-level config file,

  4. Environment variables always present in CI (CI_SERVER_URL, CI_JOB_TOKEN).

Additionally, authentication will take the following precedence when multiple options or environment variables are present:

  1. Private token,

  2. OAuth token,

  3. CI job token.

Configuration files

gitlab looks up 3 configuration files by default:

The PYTHON_GITLAB_CFG environment variable

An environment variable that contains the path to a configuration file.


System-wide configuration file


User configuration file

You can use a different configuration file with the --config-file option.


If the PYTHON_GITLAB_CFG environment variable is defined and the target file exists, it will be the only configuration file parsed by gitlab.

If the environment variable is defined and the target file cannot be accessed, gitlab will fail explicitly.

Configuration file format

The configuration file uses the INI format. It contains at least a [global] section, and a specific section for each GitLab server. For example:

default = somewhere
ssl_verify = true
timeout = 5

url =
private_token = vTbFeqJYCY3sibBP7BZM
api_version = 4

url =
private_token = helper: path/to/
timeout = 1

The default option of the [global] section defines the GitLab server to use if no server is explicitly specified with the --gitlab CLI option.

The [global] section also defines the values for the default connection parameters. You can override the values in each GitLab server section.

Global options


Possible values



True, False, or a str

Verify the SSL certificate. Set to False to disable verification, though this will create warnings. Any other value is interpreted as path to a CA_BUNDLE file or directory with certificates of trusted CAs.



Number of seconds to wait for an answer before failing.



The API version to use to make queries. Only 4 is available since 1.5.0.


Integer between 1 and 100

The number of items to return in listing queries. GitLab limits the value at 100.



A string defining a custom user agent to use when gitlab makes requests.

You must define the url in each GitLab server section.


Note that a url that results in 301/302 redirects will raise an error, so it is highly recommended to use the final destination in the url field. For example, if the GitLab server you are using redirects requests from http to https, make sure to use the https:// protocol in the URL definition.

A URL that redirects using 301/302 (rather than 307/308) will most likely cause malformed POST and PUT requests.

python-gitlab will therefore raise a RedirectionError when it encounters a redirect which it believes will cause such an error, to avoid confusion between successful GET and failing POST/PUT requests on the same instance.

Only one of private_token, oauth_token or job_token should be defined. If neither are defined an anonymous request will be sent to the Gitlab server, with very limited permissions.

We recommend that you use Credential helpers to securely store your tokens.

GitLab server options




URL for the GitLab server. Do NOT use a URL which redirects.


Your user token. Login/password is not supported. Refer to the official documentation to learn how to obtain a token.


An Oauth token for authentication. The Gitlab server must be configured to support this authentication method.


Your job token. See the official documentation to learn how to obtain a token.


GitLab API version to use. Only 4 is available since 1.5.0.

Credential helpers

For all configuration options that contain secrets (for example, personal_token, oauth_token, job_token), you can specify a helper program to retrieve the secret indicated by a helper: prefix. This allows you to fetch values from a local keyring store or cloud-hosted vaults such as Bitwarden. Environment variables are expanded if they exist and ~ expands to your home directory.

It is expected that the helper program prints the secret to standard output. To use shell features such as piping to retrieve the value, you will need to use a wrapper script; see below.

Example for a keyring helper:

default = somewhere
ssl_verify = true
timeout = 5

url =
private_token = helper: keyring get Service Username
timeout = 1

Example for a pass helper with a wrapper script:

default = somewhere
ssl_verify = true
timeout = 5

url =
private_token = helper: /path/to/
timeout = 1

In /path/to/

pass show path/to/credentials | head -n 1


Objects and actions

The gitlab command expects two mandatory arguments. The first one is the type of object that you want to manipulate. The second is the action that you want to perform. For example:

$ gitlab project list

Use the --help option to list the available object types and actions:

$ gitlab --help
$ gitlab project --help

Some actions require additional parameters. Use the --help option to list mandatory and optional arguments for an action:

$ gitlab project create --help

Optional arguments

Use the following optional arguments to change the behavior of gitlab. These options must be defined before the mandatory arguments.

--verbose, -v

Outputs detail about retrieved objects. Available for legacy (default) output only.

--config-file, -c

Path to a configuration file.

--gitlab, -g

ID of a GitLab server defined in the configuration file.

--output, -o

Output format. Defaults to a custom format. Can also be yaml or json.


The PyYAML package is required to use the yaml output option. You need to install it explicitly using pip install python-gitlab[yaml]

--fields, -f

Comma-separated list of fields to display (yaml and json output formats only). If not used, all the object fields are displayed.


$ gitlab -o yaml -f id,permissions -g elsewhere -c /tmp/gl.cfg project list

Reading values from files

You can make gitlab read values from files instead of providing them on the command line. This is handy for values containing new lines for instance:

$ cat > /tmp/description << EOF
This is the description of my project.

It is obviously the best project around
$ gitlab project create --name SuperProject --description @/tmp/description

It you want to explicitly pass an argument starting with @, you can escape it using @@:

$ gitlab project-tag list --project-id somenamespace/myproject
name: @at-started-tag
$ gitlab project-tag delete --project-id somenamespace/myproject --name '@@at-started-tag'

Enabling shell autocompletion

To get autocompletion, you’ll need to install the package with the extra “autocompletion”:

pip install python_gitlab[autocompletion]

Add the appropriate command below to your shell’s config file so that it is run on startup. You will likely have to restart or re-login for the autocompletion to start working.


eval "$(register-python-argcomplete gitlab)"


eval ``register-python-argcomplete --shell tcsh gitlab``


register-python-argcomplete --shell fish gitlab | .



Zsh autocompletion support is broken right now in the argcomplete python package. Perhaps it will be fixed in a future release of argcomplete at which point the following instructions will enable autocompletion in zsh.

To activate completions for zsh you need to have bashcompinit enabled in zsh:

autoload -U bashcompinit

Afterwards you can enable completion for gitlab:

eval "$(register-python-argcomplete gitlab)"