28 stable releases

new 1.22.1 Mar 22, 2023
1.21.1 Feb 15, 2023
1.20.6 Sep 7, 2022
1.20.4 Jul 1, 2022
1.17.0 Jul 21, 2021

#19 in Command line utilities

Download history 101/week @ 2022-11-29 147/week @ 2022-12-06 147/week @ 2022-12-13 95/week @ 2022-12-20 74/week @ 2022-12-27 203/week @ 2023-01-03 404/week @ 2023-01-10 493/week @ 2023-01-17 398/week @ 2023-01-24 388/week @ 2023-01-31 1065/week @ 2023-02-07 808/week @ 2023-02-14 803/week @ 2023-02-21 609/week @ 2023-02-28 758/week @ 2023-03-07 581/week @ 2023-03-14

2,839 downloads per month



Watchexec CLI

A simple standalone tool that watches a path and runs a command whenever it detects modifications.

Example use cases:

  • Automatically run unit tests
  • Run linters/syntax checkers


  • Simple invocation and use

  • Runs on Linux, Mac, Windows, and more

  • Monitors current directory and all subdirectories for changes

    • Uses efficient event polling mechanism (on Linux, Mac, Windows, BSD)
  • Coalesces multiple filesystem events into one, for editors that use swap/backup files during saving

  • By default, uses .gitignore, .ignore, and other such files to determine which files to ignore notifications for

  • Support for watching files with a specific extension

  • Support for filtering/ignoring events based on glob patterns

  • Launches the command in a new process group (can be disabled with --no-process-group)

  • Optionally clears screen between executions

  • Optionally restarts the command with every modification (good for servers)

  • Optionally sends a desktop notification on command start and end

  • Does not require a language runtime

  • Sets the following environment variables in the process:

    $WATCHEXEC_COMMON_PATH is set to the longest common path of all of the below variables, and so should be prepended to each path to obtain the full/real path.

    Variable name Event kind
    $WATCHEXEC_CREATED_PATH files/folders were created
    $WATCHEXEC_REMOVED_PATH files/folders were removed
    $WATCHEXEC_RENAMED_PATH files/folders were renamed
    $WATCHEXEC_WRITTEN_PATH files/folders were modified
    $WATCHEXEC_META_CHANGED_PATH files/folders' metadata were modified
    $WATCHEXEC_OTHERWISE_CHANGED_PATH every other kind of event

    These variables may contain multiple paths: these are separated by the platform's path separator, as with the PATH system environment variable. On Unix that is :, and on Windows ;. Within each variable, paths are deduplicated and sorted in binary order (i.e. neither Unicode nor locale aware).

    This can be disabled or limited with --no-environment (doesn't set any of these variables) and --no-meta (ignores metadata changes).


  • Not tied to any particular language or ecosystem
  • Not tied to Git or the presence of a repository/project
  • Does not require a cryptic command line involving xargs

Simple Usage Examples

Watch all JavaScript, CSS and HTML files in the current directory and all subdirectories for changes, running make when a change is detected:

$ watchexec --exts js,css,html make

Call make test when any file changes in this directory/subdirectory, except for everything below target:

$ watchexec -i "target/**" make test

Call ls -la when any file changes in this directory/subdirectory:

$ watchexec -- ls -la

Call/restart python server.py when any Python file in the current directory (and all subdirectories) changes:

$ watchexec -e py -r python server.py

Call/restart my_server when any file in the current directory (and all subdirectories) changes, sending SIGKILL to stop the command:

$ watchexec -r -s SIGKILL my_server

Send a SIGHUP to the command upon changes (Note: using -n here we're executing my_server directly, instead of wrapping it in a shell:

$ watchexec -n -s SIGHUP my_server

Run make when any file changes, using the .gitignore file in the current directory to filter:

$ watchexec make

Run make when any file in lib or src changes:

$ watchexec -w lib -w src make

Run bundle install when the Gemfile changes:

$ watchexec -w Gemfile bundle install

Run two commands:

$ watchexec 'date; make'

If you come from entr, note that the watchexec command is run in a shell by default. You can use -n or --shell=none to not do that:

$ watchexec -n -- echo ';' lorem ipsum

On Windows, you may prefer to use Powershell:

$ watchexec --shell=powershell -- test-connection localhost

Complex Usage Examples

Turn a plain converter tool like PlantUML or Pandoc into a powerful live-editing tool, either as a script

#!/usr/bin/env bash
set -Eeuo pipefail

SOURCE="test.puml"            # Define source file
TARGET="test.png"             # Define conversion target file
CONVERT="plantuml $SOURCE"    # Define how to convert source to target
VIEW="feh $TARGET"            # Define how to open target file
if [ ! -f $TARGET ]; then $CONVERT; fi # Ensure target file exists for opening
$VIEW &                                # Open target file in viewer in the background
watchexec --filter $SOURCE -- $CONVERT    # Update target file on any source file change

or condensed as a single line

# Bash
$ SOURCE="test.puml"; TARGET="test.png"; CONVERT="plantuml $SOURCE"; VIEW="feh $TARGET"; if [ ! -f $TARGET ]; then $CONVERT; fi; ($VIEW &); watchexec -f $SOURCE -- $CONVERT
# Zsh
$ SOURCE="test.puml"; TARGET="test.png"; CONVERT="plantuml $SOURCE"; VIEW="feh $TARGET"; if [ ! -f $TARGET ]; then $CONVERT; fi; ($=VIEW &); watchexec -f $SOURCE -- $CONVERT

Replace PlantUML with another converter like Pandoc: plantuml $SOURCE turns into pandoc $SOURCE --output $TARGET. Similarly, replace the Feh image viewer with another viewer for your target file like the PDF viewer Evince: feh $TARGET turns into evince $TARGET.


Package manager

Watchexec is in many package managers. A full list of known packages is available, and there may be more out there! Please contribute any you find to the list :)

Common package managers:

  • Alpine: $ apk add watchexec
  • ArchLinux: $ pacman -S watchexec
  • Nix: $ nix-shell -p watchexec
  • Debian/Ubuntu via apt.cli.rs: $ apt install watchexec
  • Homebrew on Mac: $ brew install watchexec
  • Chocolatey on Windows: #> choco install watchexec


$ cargo binstall watchexec-cli

Pre-built binaries

Use the download section on Github or the website to obtain the package appropriate for your platform and architecture, extract it, and place it in your PATH.

There are also Debian/Ubuntu (DEB) and Fedora/RedHat (RPM) packages.

Checksums and signatures are available.

Cargo (from source)

Only the latest Rust stable is supported, but older versions may work.

$ cargo install watchexec-cli

Shell completions

Currently available shell completions:

  • bash: completions/bash should be installed to /usr/share/bash-completion/completions/watchexec
  • elvish: completions/elvish should be installed to $XDG_CONFIG_HOME/elvish/completions/
  • fish: completions/fish should be installed to /usr/share/fish/vendor_completions.d/watchexec.fish
  • nu: completions/nu should be installed to $XDG_CONFIG_HOME/nu/completions/
  • powershell: completions/powershell should be installed to $PROFILE/
  • zsh: completions/zsh should be installed to /usr/share/zsh/site-functions/_watchexec

If not bundled, you can generate completions for your shell with watchexec --completions <shell>.


There's a manual page at doc/watchexec.1. Install it to /usr/share/man/man1/. If not bundled, you can generate a manual page with watchexec --manual > /path/to/watchexec.1, or view it inline with watchexec --manual (requires man).

You can also read a text version or a PDF.


~1M SLoC