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semgrep-cli contributing

The following explains how to build semgrep-cli so that you can make and test changes to the Python wrapper. The semgrep-cli name refers to the project which exposes the actual semgrep command. You may want to read the README first to understand the relationship between semgrep-cli and semgrep-core.

Setting up the environment

You will need Python >= 3.7.

Most Python development is done inside the cli directory:

cd cli

We use pipenv to manage our virtual environment. You can install it like this:

python -m pip install pipenv

Next we need to initialize the environment. This command will install dev dependencies such as pytest and will also install semgrep in editable mode in the pipenv.

SEMGREP_SKIP_BIN=true python -m pipenv install --dev

SEMGREP_SKIP_BIN` tells the installer that we will bring our own semgrep-core; see below.*

Getting the semgrep-core binary

Almost all usages of semgrep-cli require the semgrep-core binary. To get this binary, your safest bet is to follow the instructions in Building semgrep-core, which takes around 20 minutes.

Two shortcuts are available as alternatives, where you use a pre-compiled binary. The downsides of using a pre-compiled binary are:

  1. You will not be able to make edits to semgrep-core, for example to fix a parse error.
  2. Semgrep will fail if the interface between semgrep-cli and semgrep-core has changed since the binary was compiled. This has historically been happening around every two months, but can happen at any time without notice.

With that in mind, the available shortcuts are:

The Homebrew shortcut

If you installed Semgrep via Homebrew with brew install semgrep, a semgrep-core binary was bundled within that installation, but is not made available on your $PATH by default.

You can add the bundled binary to your $PATH with this series of commands, provided you have jq installed:

export SEMGREP_BREW_INSTALLED_VERSION="$(brew info --json semgrep | jq '.[0].installed[0].version' -r)"
export SEMGREP_BREW_PYTHON_PACKAGE_PATH="$(${SEMGREP_BREW_INSTALL_PATH}/libexec/bin/python -m pip list -v | grep '^semgrep\b' | awk '{ print $3 }')"

The manual shortcut

Visit the releases page and grab the latest zipfile or tarball for your platform. Extract this archive and inside should be the necessary binaries. You can confirm this by running:

./semgrep-core --help

Copy this file to somewhere in your $PATH so semgrep-cli can find them. For example, you may create a ~/bin/ directory within the repository. Include it in your $PATH and run the binary from there.

Alternatively, you may include it somewhere like /usr/local/bin/.

Running semgrep-cli

Ensure that you are in cli/ directory, and then issue the following command:

pipenv run semgrep --help

To try a simple analysis, you can run:

echo 'if 1 == 1: pass' | semgrep --lang python --pattern '$X == $X' -

Congratulations, you have Semgrep running locally!

Installing semgrep

You can always run semgrep from cli/, which will use your latest changes in that directory, but you may also want to install the semgrep binary. To do this, run

pipenv install --dev

Some people have encountered difficulties with the above. If it fails, you can reach out to the semgrep team on Slack.

Now you can run semgrep --help from anywhere.

If you have installed semgrep-core from source, there are convenient targets in the root Makefile that let you update all binaries. After you pull, simply run

make rebuild

See the Makefile in cli/

Adding python packages to semgrep

Semgrep uses mypy to do static type-checking of its Python code. Therefore, when adding a new Python package, you also need to add typing stubs for that package. This can be done in three steps. For example, suppose you are adding the package pyyaml to Semgrep.

  1. Install the corresponding package with typing stubs. For this pyyaml example, the corresponding package is types-pyyaml. In the following command, --dev specifies that this package is needed for development but not in production. This command updates cli/Pipfile with the typing stubs package, and adds both the typing stubs and the package itself to your Pipfile.lock. This allows you to import the package in your code (for example, import yaml as pyyaml).
    pipenv install --dev types-pyyaml
  2. Add the typing stubs package to .pre-commit-config.yaml so that the pre-commit mypy hook can find the package.
          - id: mypy
    additional_dependencies: &mypy-deps
    - ...
    - types-PyYAML
  3. Add the original package to cli/ in the install_requires list variable. You can find the version number either in the Pipfile.lock changes or by looking up online the most recent major version of the package.
    install_requires = [

This change makes your package a dependency of published Semgrep. Without this change, if you create a pull request, the CI job called build docker image fails with a ModuleNotFoundError, indicating that it is unable to find your package.


For a reference build that's known to work, consult the root Dockerfile to build semgrep inside a container. You can check that it builds with

docker build -t semgrep .


semgrep-cli uses pytest for testing.

To run tests, run the following command:

pipenv run pytest

There are some much slower tests which run semgrep on many open source projects. To run these slow tests, run:

pipenv run pytest tests/qa

If you want to update the tests to match to the current output:

make regenerate-tests

Running a single test file is simple too:

pipenv run pytest path/to/

Or running an individual test function:

pipenv run pytest path/to/

semgrep-cli also includes pytest-benchmark to allow for basic benchmarking functionality. This can be run like so:

pipenv run pytest --benchmark-only