now 0.10.2

A document format with embedded programming language

To use this package, run the following command in your project's root directory:

Manual usage
Put the following dependency into your project's dependences section:

now logo

Your code is ready. Now run.


Are you using Make as a command-runner for your project? Or do you have a bin/ directory with shell scripts? Is your Makefile starting to feel somewhat limited? Are your shell scripts escaping from bin/ and starting to feel pervasive in your project?

It's very likely that you wished that you could have the power of a good POSIX shell but wrapped in a simple interface like that of Make.

Well, those are basically the problems Now wants to solve. With Now you can write every supporting routines of your project in only one file while still being able to use all the power not only of a POSIX shell but of any other tool available in your system in a well-organized manner!


  • REPL
  • Nowfile (like a Makefile)
  • Self-documenting command line interfaces
  • Syntax for structured data
  • Pipelines!
  • System Commands
  • Shells and Scripts (define external programs, like bash, and code that are expected to be run by them in your document/program)
  • Load configuration from environment variables automatically
  • Template System
  • Data Sources (you can easily define procedures that load constants into your document before running it)
  • Libraries implemented as external processes (no dynamic libraries / shared objects support required)
  • Sections of your document can be simply text


Using dub

To build Now, you must have dub installed.

On Debian-based Linux distros:

$ sudo apt-get install -y dub

On MacOS X:

$ brew install dub

Now you can run Now using dub, like in

$ dub run now -b release

but probably you'll want to run it directly, so I recommend you create a symbolic link into some directory present in your $PATH. In my case, I have a ~/bin for that, so it would be like this:

$ cd ~/bin
$ ln -sf ~/.dub/packages/now-$NOW_VERSION/now/dist/now now

Please notice you'll have to indicate the installed version. If you want to automate that, you can use jq:

$ NOW_VERSION=$(dub describe now | jq -rc '.packages[0].version')
$ cd ~/bin
$ ln -sf ~/.dub/packages/now-$NOW_VERSION/now/dist/now now

Using make

  • Have ldc installed (it's called ldc2 on some systems);
  • Have make installed;
  • Clone the repository;
  • make release;
  • Symlink or copy dist/now to a directory under your PATH.


Considering there's a Nowfile in the current directory:

$ now <subcommand>

You can get a help text by calling now without arguments:

$ now


In the extras/ directory you'll find:

  • A vim syntax file;
  • A bash completion function (source extras/completions/


[Sample Program]

Show the basics of the syntax

parameters {
    name {
        type string
        default "World"

print "Hello, $name!"

Save it as Nowfile and run this in the same directory:

$ now hello

The idea of Now is to have a sort of document containing everything your project need to be run in each developer machine, tested or deployed, while still being easy to read and understand.

That's why Now offers commands: they are what your users (project developers, probably) are going to call through the command line.

  • The developer wants to run the project? now run
  • Is it necessary to build it first? now build
  • Changes were made? now test
  • Tests passed and you want to make sure nobody is working outside a feature branch? now push


$ now :repl

If there's a Nowfile present in the current working directory, it will be loaded and everything available inside any procedure will also be available for you.


$ now :cmd 'set x 10' 'print $x'

Sometimes it's useful to run a bunch of commands without having to write that into a file, so you can do that using the `:cmd' option.

More options

$ now :help
  No arguments: run ./Nowfile if present
  :bash-complete - shell autocompletion
  :cmd <command> - run commands passed as arguments
  :f <file> - run a specific file
  :repl - enter interactive mode
  :stdin - read a document from standard input
  :help - display this help message

Integrating with bash

Just create a script for bash inside the "shells" key:

parameters {
    extra_args {
        type string

source src/
uvicorn app:server --host $HOST --port $PORT $extra_args

Then you can call run_server from inside your commands:


run_server "--reload"

Notice that there's no name conflict in this case, because commands are not supposed to be called from inside your document. So there's actually only one "thing" that can be called by the name run_server, and that is the bash script we just defined.

Integrating with external commands

External commands, or "system commands", are defined under the "system_commands" key:

parameters {
    bucket {
        type string
    prefix {
        type string
command {
    - aws
    - s3api
    - "list-objects"
    - "--bucket"
    - $bucket
    - "--prefix"
    - $prefix

parameters {
    prefix {
        type string

list_s3_objects "default-bucket" $prefix 
    | collect
    : join "\n"
    | json.decode
    : get "Contents"
    | foreach item {
        print ($item . "Key")

As you can see, the list_s3_objects system command is being called by ls and its output is being passed through a pipeline in order to print the key of each returned object. Here we are using:

  • list_s3_objects will return a SystemProcess, that yields stdout line-by-line;
  • collect will receive each incoming line and turn they all into a single List;
  • join method will join each item of this list as a string using "\n" as separator;
  • json.decode will turn the JSON string into a Dict;
  • get method will get the value of the key "Contents", that is a List;
  • foreach iterates over the List;
  • print will print to the standard output.
  • () indicates we're using infix notation;
  • . is the same as the method get, so ($a . b) equals obj $a : get b.


The above command ended up big and tends to be repeated in other places, so it's best to turn that into a procedure.

Procedures are defined under the procedures key:

parameters {
    prefix {
        type string

list_s3_objects "default-bucket" $prefix
    | collect
    : join "\n"
    | json.decode
    : get "Contents"
    | foreach item {
        print ($item . "Key")

And now our ls command itself is much simpler:

parameters {
    prefix {
        type string

s3_ls $prefix


Still, the system command list_s3_objects returning a JSON string line-by-line is weird. We could improve that by making everything more intuitive, like returning a proper Dict "directly". In common programming languages you'd probably wrap everything inside yet another procedure, but Now offer you some event handlers for each system command, procedure, shell script and even commands:

  • - called after parsing arguments but before the "function" body;
  • on.return - called right after the "function" returns;
  • on.error - allows you to handle errors as you may find fit.

These handlers (except on.error) share the same scope as the body.

User-friendly Commands

In order to use the auto-generated help text feature you must add some information to your commands metadata, namely: a description for the command and a default for each parameter where it applies:

description "List objects inside default-bucket."
parameter {
    prefix {
        description "The prefix to be listed."
        type string
        default "projects/"

Now, if the user types only now in the command line, he will be greeted with something like this:

$ now
Sample Program
Show the basics of the syntax

 ls ----------> List objects inside default-bucket.
    prefix : string = projects/

User-defined types

description "A mock of a server."
parameters {
    name {
        type string

dict (status = stopped) (name = $name) | return


o $self | set (status = running)


server teste | as test_server
o $test_server : run
o $test_server : get status | eq running : assert "Status should be `running`"


Values can have properties. They are set using the following syntax:

$object ~key1 value1 ~key2 value2 ~key3 value3...

For example:

set x 10 ~name ten ~name_pt dez
print $x  # 10
o $x | prop name | print  # ten
o $x | prop name_pt | print  # dez

Why so much bureaucracy about "parameters"?

You may be asking why such a significant part of a Now document is "wasted" with such lengthy parameters definitions.

Well, think about most projects intended to be mantained by more than one person and how the functions or methods start very simple and then gain more and more complexity.


def sum(a, b):
    return a + b


def sum(a: int, b: int) -> int
    return a + b

and then

def sum(a: int, b: int) -> int
    """Return the sum of two integers

        a : int - the first term of the sum
        b : int - the second term of the sum

        sum : int - the sum between a and b
    return a + b

You see? In the end most projects leave behind the "just define a function" approach in favor of this level or worse of "documentation", type annotation, et cetera. And if you are paying attention, you already realized that the typing information is now present at two levels: one for the computer, another for humans.

Now tries to avoid creating syntax, and it's always a good thing to have one that is easily understandable by both computers and humans, so we define parameters and every kind of metadata in this simple format that, although possibly a little bit lengthy, certainly avoid any future mess, since it is quite easy to use it to generate good documentation (as HTML, for example) while still quite easy on the programmer's eyes (I decided to not add the intuitive = symbol between keys and values exactly because of that).

description "Sum two integer numbers."
parameters {
    a {
        type int
        description "The first term."
    b {
        type int
        description "The second term."
return {
    type int
    description "The sum of a and b."

return ($a + $b)


protocol {
    default https
domain {
    default ""
base_path {
    default "api/v1"

now has the ability to load configuration automatically from environment variables. For the above definition, one should define the API_PROTOCOL, API_DOMAIN and API_BASE_PATH environment variables.

To access it in your scripts, use the $api Dict, like this:

obj $api : get protocol | print
# https


pi 3.1415

Constants are very similar to configuration, but they're not loaded from any other place than their definition section. Besides, since you are already giving their values, there's no need to inform default, type or anything else.

More Details About Syntax

The section header has a specific syntax, a little bit diffent from the syntax for the body, but similar enough to not be confusing. This part ends with a blank line and follows this format:

key value

The key must be a valid atom, that is:

  • All lowercase;
  • No special characters besides underscore (_) or dot (.).

And the value can be:

  • A number (123, 12.34);
  • An atom (hello);
  • A string ("hey");
  • A dict.

The syntax for dicts is as follows:

    key1 value2
    key2 value2

That is: it's a sequence of zero or many key/value pairs, one by line. A value can be another dict, in which case it may extend for more lines.

    subdict {
        key value
        yet_another_subdict {
            another_key another_value


The body of a section may or may not be Now code.

Now code syntax is very similar to Tcl. Each code part of a section is a SubProgram, and each SubProgram is comprised of a list of Pipelines, in this format:

command2 argument1
command3 argument1 argument2 argument3 etc
command4 | command5 | command6

Now each argument can be:

  • A number, an atom or a string;
  • Another SubProgram;
  • An ExecList;
  • An InfixNotation;

A SubProgram inside a SubProgram is enclosed by {}, like this:

scope "demonstrate a subprogram" {
    this is a subprogram

An ExecList is a way to run commands to create arguments to other commands. So instead of relying on ad-hoc variables, you can run a command directly while calling another one, like this:

print [list 1 2 3 4]
# (1 2 3 4)

now tries to minimize the ammount of syntax developers have to learn, so instead of complicating the parser with lots of different symbols, it implements an elegant way of writing things that fits better as infix notation, like mathematical operations, comparisons, etc.

# This works. Notice that `+` has nothing special going on: it is
# simply a regular command:
set x [+ 1 2 3]
# 7

# If you like your program to be that *lispy*, okay. But if you don't:
set y (1 + 2 + 3)

What the parenthesis (()) do is to rearrange the terms so that they fit the command-arguments pattern. In the above case, both operations are effectually the same. Not only that, but the parenthesis also group sequential equal operators, so:

set z (100 - 99 - 98 - 97 - 96 - 95)

is the same as

set z [- 100 99 98 97 96 95]

This way we can also operate over dicts:

# "Traditional" way:
print [get $program configuration hello salute_word]

# Infix notation way:
print ($program . configuration . hello . salute_word)

# (As you already realized, the above also could be written this way:)
# print [. $program configuration hello salute_word]


Speaking of dicts, the entire Program is actually read as a big dict. Each section document part is a subdict and the code part goes to a special key called "subprogram".

You can define a dict in two ways: using the dict command or using the document syntax inside a special operator:

# Using the `dict` command:
set my_dict [dict (a = 1) (b = 2)]

# Using the well-known document syntax:
set my_other_dict <{
    a 1
    b 2
    s {
        x 10
        y 20

(I know I said now tries to minimize syntax, but it would be SO weird to not have this alternative syntax available inside the code part...)

If you want to define a list, you can also use both ways: with the list command or using the document syntax:

# Using the `list` command:
set lista [list alfa beta gama delta]

# Using the document syntax:
set listb <{
    - alfa
    - beta
    - gama
    - delta

(Again, now try to minimize the ammount of syntax, so in a document, lists are declared with the same syntax as dicts, only using a flag-key, -.)

You can access both dicts and lists elements using the command get:

get $lista 0  # the second element of the list
get $my_other_dict a  # the value of the key "a" of the dict

As said before, you can also use the . command, specially in conjunction with the infix syntax:

print ($my_other_dict . s . x)
# The following would also work
print ($my_other_dict get s get x)
# But, yeah, it would seem VERY strange...
  • Cléber Zavadniak
0.10.2 2024-Mar-10
0.10.1 2024-Mar-10
0.10.0 2024-Mar-09
0.9.0 2024-Mar-09
0.8.2 2024-Mar-07
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