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bkt (pronounced "bucket") is a subprocess caching utility written in Rust, inspired by bash-cache. Wrapping expensive process invocations with bkt allows callers to reuse recent invocations without complicating their application logic. This can be useful in shell prompts, interactive applications such as fzf, and long-running programs that poll other processes.

bkt is available as a standalone binary as well as a Rust library. See https://docs.rs/bkt/ for library documentation. This README covers the bkt binary.


Run cargo install bkt to compile and install bkt locally. You will need to install cargo if it's not already on your system.

Pre-compiled binaries for common platforms are attached to each release (starting with 0.5). Please open an issue or send a PR if you would like releases to include binaries for additional platforms.

Package manager support is being tracked here; volunteers are welcome.

Packaging status


bkt [--ttl=DURATION] [--stale=DURATION] [--cwd] [--env=ENV ...] [--modtime=FILE ...] [--scope=SCOPE] [--discard-failures] [--warm|--force] -- <command>...

The easiest way to use bkt is to simply prefix the command you intend to cache with bkt --, for example:

# Execute and cache an invocation of 'date +%s.%N'
$ bkt -- date +%s.%N

# A subsequent invocation reuses the same cached output
$ bkt -- date +%s.%N

When bkt is passed a command it hasn't seen before (or recently) it executes the command synchronously and caches its stdout, stderr, and exit code. Calling bkt again with the same command reads the data from the cache and outputs it as if the command had been run again.

Cache Lifespan

Two flags, --ttl and --stale, configure how long cached data is preserved. By default bkt uses a TTL (Time to Live) of 60 seconds, meaning cached data older than sixty seconds will be discarded and the backing command re-run. Passing a different value, such as --ttl=1d, will change how long the cached data is considered valid. The default TTL can be overridden by defining a BKT_TTL environment variable.

When the data expires bkt has to re-execute the command synchronously, which can introduce unexpected slowness. To avoid this, pass --stale with a shorter duration than the TTL. When the cached data is older than the stale threshold this causes bkt to refresh the cache in the background while still promptly returning the cached data.

Both flags (and BKT_TTL) accept duration strings such as 10s or 1hour 30min. The exact syntax is defined in the humantime library.

Execution Environment

Some commands' behavior depends on more than just the command line arguments. It's possible to adjust how bkt caches such commands so that unrelated invocations are cached separately.

Working Directory

For example, attempting to cache pwd will not work as expected by default:

$ $ bkt -- pwd

$ cd ../bar

# Cached output for 'pwd' is reused even though the directory has changed
$ bkt -- pwd

To have bkt key off the current working directory in addition to the command line arguments pass --cwd:

$ bkt --cwd -- pwd

$ cd ../bar

$ bkt --cwd -- pwd

Environment Variables

Similarly, to specify one or more environment variables as relevant for the command being cached use --env, such as --env=LANG. This flag can be provided multiple times to key off additional variables. Invocations with different values for any of the given variables will be cached separately.

File Modifications

It is also possible to have bkt check the last-modified time of one or more files and include this in the cache key using --modtime. For instance passing --modtime=/etc/passwd would cause the backing command to be re-executed any time /etc/passwd is modified.

Refreshing Manually

It's also possible to trigger refreshes manually using --force or --warm. The former behaves exactly as if the cached data was not found, executing the process and caching the result. This is useful if you know the cached data is no longer up-to-date, e.g. because something external changed.

Alternatively, it can be useful to refresh the cache asynchronously, which --warm provides. This triggers a refresh in the background but immediately ends the current process with no output. This is useful if you expect additional invocations in the near future and want to ensure they get a cache hit. Note that until the warming process completes concurrent calls may still see a cache miss and trigger their own invocation.

Setting a Cache Scope

Cached data is persisted to disk (but see below), and is available to any process that invokes bkt. Generally this is desirable, but certain usages may want to isolate their invocations from other potential concurrent calls.

To do so pass --scope=... with a sufficiently unique argument, such as a fixed label for the calling program, the current process ID, or a timestamp.

$ bkt -- date +%s.%N

# Changing the scope causes the command to be cached separately
$ bkt --scope=foo -- date +%s.%N

Alternatively, define a BKT_SCOPE environment variable to configure a consistent scope across invocations. This can be useful within a script to ensure all commands share a scope.


# Set a unique scope for this script invocation using the PID and current time
export BKT_SCOPE="my_script_$$_$(date -Ins)"

Discarding Failed Invocations

By default, all invocations are cached regardless of their output or exit code. In situations where failures should not be cached pass --discard-failures to only persist successful invocations (those that return a 0 exit code).

WARNING: Passing this flag can cause the backing command to be invoked more frequently than the --ttl would suggest, which in turn can create unexpected load. If the backing command is failing due to an outage or bug (such as an overloaded website) triggering additional calls can exacerbate the issue and effectively DDoS the hampered system. It is generally safer not to set this flag and instead make the client robust to occasional failures.

Changing the Cache Directory

By default, cached data is stored under /tmp or a similar temporary directory; this can be customized via the --cache-dir flag or by defining a BKT_CACHE_DIR environment variable.

If a BKT_TMPDIR environment variable is defined it wil be used instead of the system's temporary directory. Although BKT_TMPDIR and BKT_CACHE_DIR have similar effects BKT_TMPDIR is intended to be used to configure the global cache location (e.g. by declaring it in your .bashrc or similar), while --cache-dir/BKT_CACHE_DIR should be used to customize the cache location for a given set of invocations that shouldn't use the default cache directory.

Note that the choice of directory can affect bkt's performance: if the cache is stored under a tmpfs or solid-state partition it will be significantly faster than caching to a spinning disk.

Security and Privacy

The default cache directory is potentially world-readable. On Unix the cache directory is created with 700 permissions, meaning only the current user can access it, but this is not foolproof.

You can customize the cache directory (see above) to a location you trust such as ~/.bkt, but note that your home directory may be slower than the temporary directory selected by default.

In general, if you are not the only user of your system it's wise to configure your TMPDIR to a location only you can access. If that is not possible use BKT_TMPDIR to configure a custom temporary directory specifically for bkt.

Patterns and Tips

Please share how you're using bkt on the Discussion Board!

Speeding up fzf and other preview tools

bkt works well with interactive tools like fzf that execute other commands. Because fzf executes the --preview command every time an element is selected it can be slow and tedious to browse when the command takes a long time to run. Using bkt allows each selection's preview to be cached. Compare:

$ printf '%s\n' 1 0.2 3 0.1 5 | \
  fzf --preview="bash -c 'sleep {}; echo {}'"

$ printf '%s\n' 1 0.2 3 0.1 5 | \
  fzf --preview="bkt --ttl=10m --stale=10s -- bash -c 'sleep {}; echo {}'"

You'll generally want to use a long TTL and a short stale duration so that even if you leave fzf running for a while the cache remains warm and is refreshed in the background. You may also want to set a --scope if it's important to invalidate the cache on subsequent invocations.

See this discussion for a more complete example of using bkt with fzf, including warming the commands before the user starts navigating the selector.

Using bkt only if installed

You may want to distribute shell scripts that utilize bkt without requiring every user also install bkt. By wrapping bkt in a shell function your script can cleanly invoke bkt if available without complicating your users' workflow. Of course if they choose to install bkt they'll get a faster script as a result!

# Cache commands using bkt if installed
if command -v bkt >&/dev/null; then
  bkt() { command bkt "$@"; }
  # If bkt isn't installed skip its arguments and just execute directly.
  # Optionally write a msg to stderr suggesting users install bkt.
  bkt() {
    while [[ "$1" == --* ]]; do shift; done

# Now you can call bkt (the function) just like you'd call bkt (the binary):
bkt -- expensive_cmd ...

Decorating commands with bkt in shell scripts

It is sometimes helpful to cache all invocations of a command in a shell script or in your shell environment. You can use a decorator function pattern similar to what bash-cache does to enable caching transparently, like so:

# This is Bash syntax, but other shells support similar syntax
expensive_cmd() {
  bkt [bkt args ...] -- expensive_cmd "$@"

Calls to expensive_cmd in your shell will now go through bkt behind the scenes. This can be useful for brevity and consistency but obviously changing behavior like this is a double-edged-sword, so use with caution. Should you need to bypass the cache for a single invocation Bash provides the command builtin, so command expensive_cmd ... will invoke expensive_cmd directly. Other shells provide similar features.


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