Command Line Interface

Installing Flask installs the flask script, a Click command line interface, in your virtualenv. Executed from the terminal, this script gives access to built-in, extension, and application-defined commands. The --help option will give more information about any commands and options.

Application Discovery

The flask command is installed by Flask, not your application; it must be told where to find your application in order to use it. The FLASK_APP environment variable is used to specify how to load the application.

Unix Bash (Linux, Mac, etc.):

$ export FLASK_APP=hello
$ flask run

Windows CMD:

> set FLASK_APP=hello
> flask run

Windows PowerShell:

> $env:FLASK_APP = "hello"
> flask run

While FLASK_APP supports a variety of options for specifying your application, most use cases should be simple. Here are the typical values:

The file is imported, automatically detecting an app (app). This provides an easy way to create an app from a factory with extra arguments.
The name is imported, automatically detecting an app (app) or factory (create_app).

FLASK_APP has three parts: an optional path that sets the current working directory, a Python file or dotted import path, and an optional variable name of the instance or factory. If the name is a factory, it can optionally be followed by arguments in parentheses. The following values demonstrate these parts:

Sets the current working directory to src then imports hello.
Imports the path hello.web.
Uses the app2 Flask instance in hello.
The create_app factory in hello is called with the string 'dev' as the argument.

If FLASK_APP is not set, the command will look for a file called or and try to detect an application instance or factory.

Within the given import, the command looks for an application instance named app or application, then any application instance. If no instance is found, the command looks for a factory function named create_app or make_app that returns an instance.

When calling an application factory, if the factory takes an argument named info, then the ScriptInfo instance is passed as a keyword argument. If parentheses follow the factory name, their contents are parsed as Python literals and passes as arguments to the function. This means that strings must still be in quotes.

Run the Development Server

The run command will start the development server. It replaces the method in most cases.

$ flask run
 * Serving Flask app "hello"
 * Running on (Press CTRL+C to quit)


Do not use this command to run your application in production. Only use the development server during development. The development server is provided for convenience, but is not designed to be particularly secure, stable, or efficient. See Deployment Options for how to run in production.

Open a Shell

To explore the data in your application, you can start an interactive Python shell with the shell command. An application context will be active, and the app instance will be imported.

$ flask shell
Python 3.6.2 (default, Jul 20 2017, 03:52:27)
[GCC 7.1.1 20170630] on linux
App: example
Instance: /home/user/Projects/hello/instance

Use shell_context_processor() to add other automatic imports.

Debug Mode

Set the FLASK_DEBUG environment variable to override the application’s debug flag. The value 1 enables it, 0 disables it. Forcing the debug flag on also enables the debugger and reloader when running the development server.

$ FLASK_DEBUG=1 flask run
 * Serving Flask app "hello"
 * Forcing debug mode on
 * Running on (Press CTRL+C to quit)
 * Restarting with inotify reloader
 * Debugger is active!
 * Debugger PIN: 223-456-919

Environment Variables From dotenv

Rather than setting FLASK_APP each time you open a new terminal, you can use Flask’s dotenv support to set environment variables automatically.

If python-dotenv is installed, running the flask command will set environment variables defined in the files .env and .flaskenv. This can be used to avoid having to set FLASK_APP manually every time you open a new terminal, and to set configuration using environment variables similar to how some deployment services work.

Variables set on the command line are used over those set in .env, which are used over those set in .flaskenv. .flaskenv should be used for public variables, such as FLASK_APP, while .env should not be committed to your repository so that it can set private variables.

Directories are scanned upwards from the directory you call flask from to locate the files. The current working directory will be set to the location of the file, with the assumption that that is the top level project directory.

The files are only loaded by the flask command or calling run(). If you would like to load these files when running in production, you should call load_dotenv() manually.

Environment Variables From virtualenv

If you do not want to install dotenv support, you can still set environment variables by adding them to the end of the virtualenv’s activate script. Activating the virtualenv will set the variables.

Unix Bash, venv/bin/activate:

export FLASK_APP=hello

Windows CMD, venv\Scripts\activate.bat:

set FLASK_APP=hello

It is preferred to use dotenv support over this, since .flaskenv can be committed to the repository so that it works automatically wherever the project is checked out.

Custom Commands

The flask command is implemented using Click. See that project’s documentation for full information about writing commands.

This example adds the command create_user that takes the argument name.

import click
from flask import Flask

app = Flask(__name__)

def create_user(name):
flask create_user admin

This example adds the same command, but as user create, a command in a group. This is useful if you want to organize multiple related commands.

import click
from flask import Flask
from flask.cli import AppGroup

app = Flask(__name__)
user_cli = AppGroup('user')

def create_user(name):

flask user create demo

Application Context

Commands added using the Flask app’s cli command() decorator will be executed with an application context pushed, so your command and extensions have access to the app and its configuration. If you create a command using the Click command() decorator instead of the Flask decorator, you can use with_appcontext() to get the same behavior.

import click
from flask.cli import with_appcontext

def do_work():


If you’re sure a command doesn’t need the context, you can disable it:

def do_work():


Flask will automatically load commands specified in the flask.commands entry point. This is useful for extensions that want to add commands when they are installed. Entry points are specified in

from setuptools import setup

        'flask.commands': [

Inside flask_my_extension/ you can then export a Click object:

import click

def cli():

Once that package is installed in the same virtualenv as your Flask project, you can run flask my-command to invoke the command.

Custom Scripts

When you are using the app factory pattern, it may be more convenient to define your own Click script. Instead of using FLASK_APP and letting Flask load your application, you can create your own Click object and export it as a console script entry point.

Create an instance of FlaskGroup and pass it the factory:

import click
from flask import Flask
from flask.cli import FlaskGroup

def create_app():
    app = Flask('wiki')
    # other setup
    return app, create_app=create_app)
def cli():
    """Management script for the Wiki application."""

Define the entry point in

from setuptools import setup

        'console_scripts': [

Install the application in the virtualenv in editable mode and the custom script is available. Note that you don’t need to set FLASK_APP.

$ pip install -e .
$ wiki run

PyCharm Integration

The new Flask CLI features aren’t yet fully integrated into the PyCharm IDE, so we have to do a few tweaks to get them working smoothly. These instructions should be similar for any other IDE you might want to use.

In PyCharm, with your project open, click on Run from the menu bar and go to Edit Configurations. You’ll be greeted by a screen similar to this:

screenshot of pycharm's run configuration settings

There’s quite a few options to change, but once we’ve done it for one command, we can easily copy the entire configuration and make a single tweak to give us access to other commands, including any custom ones you may implement yourself.

For the Script input (A), navigate to your project’s virtual environment. Within that folder, pick the flask executable which will reside in the bin folder, or in the Scripts on Windows.

The Script Parameter field (B) is set to the CLI command you to execute. In this example we use run, which will run the development server.

You can skip this next step if you’re using Environment Variables From dotenv. We need to add an environment variable (C) to identify our application. Click on the browse button and add an entry with FLASK_APP on the left and the name of the Python file or package on the right ( for example).

Next we need to set the working directory (D) to be the same folder where our application file or package resides. PyCharm changed it to the directory with the flask executable when we selected it earlier, which is incorrect.

Finally, untick the PYTHONPATH options (E) and give the configuration a good descriptive name, such as “Run Flask Server”, and click Apply.

Now that we have a configuration which runs flask run from within PyCharm, we can simply copy that configuration and alter the Script argument to run a different CLI command, e.g. flask shell.