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by Hibou57 ST3

A plug‑in for integration of external programs into Sublime Text 3, as window commands and text commands.



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External_Programs for Sublime Text 3

A plug-in for integration of external programs into Sublime Text 3, as text commands and window commands.

Program invocation is not interactive; if one needs to edit a command line on each invocation, wish to use an interpreter from Sublime Text or fully-featured options for program invocation, xe better use one of the three alternatives mentioned in Rationals.


Provides external_program, a command to run an external program on, either:

  • the current file;
  • the file URI with/without character position/range fragment identifier;
  • the current selection;
  • nothing.

Passes the data to the program via, either:

  • a single argument;
  • its standard input stream;
  • nothing (makes sense when the argument is nothing).

Writes back the result from the program taken from its standard output, either:

  • inserted at the caret;
  • as a replacement of the selected text;
  • to an output panel;
  • to nothing.

“Selection” means single selection, not multiple selections.

In case of errors, messages are written to the status bar. If the invoked program sent text to its standard error stream, it will be displayed in an errors output panel. Note: this is not where the plug-in writes its own error messages, including the program returned status code (when non-zero), which always go to the status bar.

Two commands are available from the command palette, to show the errors and output panel: “External Program: Show Errors” and “External Program: Show Output”.

External programs are executed synchronously.

Additionally provides build_like a convenient work-around to run a program like in a build system, from *.sublime-commands files (where you add something to the command palette), with the active file name as an argument: the $file variable only exists for *.sublime-build files, not for *.sublime-commands files (where the variable is left literally as-is, not-expanded). This plug-in provides a way to work around this. This additional command is independent from the one described above.


Either using Package Control, or manually using a source archive. For manual install in Packages/, the plug-in is to be installed as External_Programs, as using another name, would break file references.

The external_program text command

Integration of external program with simple invocation (no complex command line), mainly as text command.

A part of this command's documentation is in Summary.

Two helper commands are provided:

  • external_program_show_errors;
  • external_program_show_output.

Which are available from the command palette as:

  • “External Program: Show Errors”;
  • “External Program: Show Output”.

Creating a command

Example usage from a *.sublime-commands file:

    "caption": "Text: Format",
    "command": "external_program",
    "args": {
        "executable": "format-text",
        "source": "selected_text",
        "through": "stdin",
        "destination": "insert_replace",
        "panels": "reset"

Valid parameter values:

  • destination: [enum] insert_replace | output_panel | nothing;
  • executable: [string] name or path to the program;
  • panels: [enum] reset (default) | accumulate;
  • source: [enum] selected_text|file_name|file_uri|text_uri|nothing;
  • through: [enum] stdin | single_argument | nothing.

All parameters but panels are required.

When panels is accumulate means new content to the output and errors panels, is appended to their previous content.

More on source:

  • selected_text: the selected text where the selection is not empty and not a multiple selection;
  • file_name: the simple file name, that is, base name with extension (note the working directory is that of the file);
  • file_uri: URI with the file: protocol and an absolute path, percent-encoded as necessary;
  • text_uri: file URI with text position or range fragment identifier, after RFC 5147, using the char scheme only, where the selection is not a multiple selection (when no selection, this is the same as file_uri).


The command uses these settings:

  • errors_panel_name, which defaults to errors;
  • output_panel_name, which defaults to output;
  • timeout_delay, which defaults to 3 (seconds, not milliseconds).

If a setting is not found, the above default values are used.

Changing the errors_panel_name and output_panel_name settings, actually requires a restart to apply (this may change in a future version).

Notes: to display a panel using a Sublime Text Command, the panel name must be prefixed with output. (also note the dot). Ex: output.output, for the output panel or output.errors for the errors panel. None of these two panels exists before something was to be written to it.

The panels are displayed using the color scheme after the corresponding Sublime Text preferences, and panels switch color scheme when this preference is changed.

The build_like window command

A window command to run an external command on a file, using exec, like from a build system, thus with output sent to the build result panel and its convenient error messages navigation and parsing.

The build system allows to pass a $file argument to external programs invoked with exec. Defining a command using exec is possible from a *.sublime-commands file, but the $file variable is not available in this context (and is passed literally to the invoked program). That's the reason why this command exists: it invokes an external program though exec, passing it the active file name in the active window, even when used from a *.sublime-commands file.

The file argument is passed implicitly, as the single argument to the external program.

Creating a command

Example usage from a *.sublime-commands file:

    "caption": "Markdown: Preview",
    "command": "build_like",
    "args": {
        "executable": "multimarkdown-preview",
        "file_regex": "^(.+):([0-9]+):() (.+)$",

The only required argument to build_like, is the executable name or full path. The file_regex argument may be omitted, in which case it is taken from the default_file_regex setting (see “Preferences/Package Settings/External Programs”), or if this setting does not exist, the default "^(.+):([0-9]+):()(.+)$" is used.

The active file name is passed to the program, as a simple name (base name with extension), and the program is executed from the directory owning the file.


default_file_regex, as described above.


The program invocation is purposely simple and executed synchronously. This plug-in provides what I believe should be part of the core of an editor, and that's not the purpose of an editor to be another shell or to provide command line edition features (that's the purpose of plug-ins). So there never will be more than single argument passing or (exclusive or) passing via standard input stream.

This plug-in is to invoke external specially crafted simple commands as external programs or wrapper scripts (which is a convenient tactic, as it allows the reuse of these commands from editor to editor, in a simple manner):

  • If one needs to run a shell or interpreter from from Sublime Text, xe better use External REPL for this purpose.
  • If one needs to run external commands interactively, or possibly long running process asynchronously, xe better use External Command.
  • If one needs fully-featured options, xe better use Commando.

This package with the two firsts, may be installed together, as their features do not overlap (I'm personally using a patched version of External Command along to External_Programs). The third will supersede this one if one wants features which a purposely simple program invocation will never provides.


See LICENSE file.

Donate to software development under BSD license at pledgie.com !