# How to customize help in apps that are built with the System.Commandline library

You can customize help for a specific command, option, or argument, and you can add or replace whole help sections.

This code requires a using directive:

using System.CommandLine;

var fileOption = new Option<FileInfo>(
"--file",
description: "The file to print out.",
getDefaultValue: () => new FileInfo("scl.runtimeconfig.json"));
var lightModeOption = new Option<bool> (
"--light-mode",
description: "Determines whether the background color will be black or white");
var foregroundColorOption = new Option<ConsoleColor>(
"--color",
description: "Specifies the foreground color of console output",
getDefaultValue: () => ConsoleColor.White);

var rootCommand = new RootCommand("Read a file")
{
fileOption,
lightModeOption,
foregroundColorOption
};

rootCommand.SetHandler((file, lightMode, color) =>
{
Console.BackgroundColor = lightMode ? ConsoleColor.White: ConsoleColor.Black;
Console.ForegroundColor = color;
Console.WriteLine($"--file = {file?.FullName}"); Console.WriteLine($"File contents:\n{file?.OpenText().ReadToEnd()}");
},
fileOption,
lightModeOption,
foregroundColorOption);

await rootCommand.InvokeAsync(args);


Without customization, the following help output is produced:

Description:

Usage:
scl [options]

Options:
--file <file>                                               The file to print out. [default: scl.runtimeconfig.json]
--light-mode                                                Determines whether the background color will be black or
white
--color                                                     Specifies the foreground color of console output
<Black|Blue|Cyan|DarkBlue|DarkCyan|DarkGray|DarkGreen|Dark  [default: White]
Magenta|DarkRed|DarkYellow|Gray|Green|Magenta|Red|White|Ye
llow>
--version                                                   Show version information
-?, -h, --help                                              Show help and usage information


## Customize help for a single option or argument

Important

System.CommandLine is currently in PREVIEW, and this documentation is for version 2.0 beta 4. Some information relates to prerelease product that may be substantially modified before it's released. Microsoft makes no warranties, express or implied, with respect to the information provided here.

To customize the name of an option's argument, use the option's ArgumentHelpName property. And HelpBuilder.CustomizeSymbol lets you customize several parts of the help output for a command, option, or argument (Symbol is the base class for all three types). With CustomizeSymbol, you can specify:

• The first column text.
• The second column text.
• The way a default value is described.

In the sample app, --light-mode is explained adequately, but changes to the --file and --color option descriptions will be helpful. For --file, the argument can be identified as a <FILEPATH> instead of <file>. For the --color option, you can shorten the list of available colors in column one, and in column two you can add a warning that some colors won't work with some backgrounds.

To make these changes, delete the await rootCommand.InvokeAsync(args); line shown in the preceding code and add in its place the following code:

fileOption.ArgumentHelpName = "FILEPATH";

var parser = new CommandLineBuilder(rootCommand)
.UseDefaults()
.UseHelp(ctx =>
{
ctx.HelpBuilder.CustomizeSymbol(foregroundColorOption,
firstColumnText: "--color <Black, White, Red, or Yellow>",
secondColumnText: "Specifies the foreground color. " +
"Choose a color that provides enough contrast " +
"with the background color. " +
"For example, a yellow foreground can't be read " +
"against a light mode background.");
})
.Build();

parser.Invoke(args);


The updated code requires additional using directives:

using System.CommandLine.Builder;
using System.CommandLine.Help;
using System.CommandLine.Parsing;


The app now produces the following help output:

Description:

Usage:
scl [options]

Options:
--file <FILEPATH>                       The file to print out. [default: CustomHelp.runtimeconfig.json]
--light-mode                            Determines whether the background color will be black or white
--color <Black, White, Red, or Yellow>  Specifies the foreground color. Choose a color that provides enough contrast
with the background color. For example, a yellow foreground can't be read
against a light mode background.
--version                               Show version information
-?, -h, --help                          Show help and usage information


This output shows that the firstColumnText and secondColumnText parameters support word wrapping within their columns.

## Add or replace help sections

You can add or replace a whole section of the help output. For example, suppose you want to add some ASCII art to the description section by using the Spectre.Console NuGet package.

Change the layout by adding a call to HelpBuilder.CustomizeLayout in the lambda passed to the UseHelp method:

fileOption.ArgumentHelpName = "FILEPATH";

var parser = new CommandLineBuilder(rootCommand)
.UseDefaults()
.UseHelp(ctx =>
{
ctx.HelpBuilder.CustomizeSymbol(foregroundColorOption,
firstColumnText: "--color <Black, White, Red, or Yellow>",
secondColumnText: "Specifies the foreground color. " +
"Choose a color that provides enough contrast " +
"with the background color. " +
"For example, a yellow foreground can't be read " +
"against a light mode background.");
ctx.HelpBuilder.CustomizeLayout(
_ =>
HelpBuilder.Default
.GetLayout()
.Skip(1) // Skip the default command description section.
.Prepend(
_ => Spectre.Console.AnsiConsole.Write(
new FigletText(rootCommand.Description!))
));
})
.Build();

await parser.InvokeAsync(args);


The preceding code requires an additional using directive:

using Spectre.Console;


The System.CommandLine.Help.HelpBuilder.Default class lets you reuse pieces of existing help formatting functionality and compose them into your custom help.

The help output now looks like this:

  ____                       _                __   _   _
|  _ \    ___    __ _    __| |     __ _     / _| (_) | |   ___
| |_) |  / _ \  / _ |  / _ |    / _ |   | |_  | | | |  / _ \
|  _ <  |  __/ | (_| | | (_| |   | (_| |   |  _| | | | | |  __/
|_| \_\  \___|  \__,_|  \__,_|    \__,_|   |_|   |_| |_|  \___|

Usage:
scl [options]

Options:
--file <FILEPATH>                       The file to print out. [default: CustomHelp.runtimeconfig.json]
--light-mode                            Determines whether the background color will be black or white
--color <Black, White, Red, or Yellow>  Specifies the foreground color. Choose a color that provides enough contrast
with the background color. For example, a yellow foreground can't be read
against a light mode background.
--version                               Show version information
-?, -h, --help                          Show help and usage information


If you want to just use a string as the replacement section text instead of formatting it with Spectre.Console, replace the Prepend code in the preceding example with the following code:

.Prepend(
_ => _.Output.WriteLine("**New command description section**")
`