Set the Amazon CLI output format - Amazon Command Line Interface
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Set the Amazon CLI output format

This topic describes the different output formats for the Amazon Command Line Interface (Amazon CLI). The Amazon CLI supports the following output formats:

  • json – The output is formatted as a JSON string.

  • text – The output is formatted as multiple lines of tab-separated string values. This can be useful to pass the output to a text processor, like grep, sed, or awk.

  • table – The output is formatted as a table using the characters +|- to form the cell borders. It typically presents the information in a "human-friendly" format that is much easier to read than the others, but not as programmatically useful.

How to select the output format

As explained in the configuration topic, you can specify the output format in three ways:

  • Using the output option in a named profile in the config file – The following example sets the default output format to text.

    [default] output=text
  • Using the AWS_DEFAULT_OUTPUT environment variable – The following output sets the format to table for the commands in this command line session until the variable is changed or the session ends. Using this environment variable overrides any value set in the config file.

    $ export AWS_DEFAULT_OUTPUT="table"
  • Using the --output option on the command line – The following example sets the output of only this one command to json. Using this option on the command overrides any currently set environment variable or the value in the config file.

    $ aws swf list-domains --registration-status REGISTERED --output json

JSON output format

JSON is the default output format of the Amazon CLI. Most programming languages can easily decode JSON strings using built-in functions or with publicly available libraries. You can combine JSON output with the --query option in powerful ways to filter and format the Amazon CLI JSON-formatted output.

For more advanced filtering that you might not be able to do with --query, you can consider jq, a command line JSON processor. You can download it and find the official tutorial at

The following is an example of JSON output.

$ aws iam list-users --output json
{ "Users": [ { "Path": "/", "UserName": "Admin", "UserId": "AIDA1111111111EXAMPLE", "Arn": "arn:aws:iam::123456789012:user/Admin", "CreateDate": "2014-10-16T16:03:09+00:00", "PasswordLastUsed": "2016-06-03T18:37:29+00:00" }, { "Path": "/backup/", "UserName": "backup-user", "UserId": "AIDA2222222222EXAMPLE", "Arn": "arn:aws:iam::123456789012:user/backup/backup-user", "CreateDate": "2019-09-17T19:30:40+00:00" }, { "Path": "/", "UserName": "cli-user", "UserId": "AIDA3333333333EXAMPLE", "Arn": "arn:aws:iam::123456789012:user/cli-user", "CreateDate": "2019-09-17T19:11:39+00:00" } ] }

Text output format

The text format organizes the Amazon CLI output into tab-delimited lines. It works well with traditional Unix text tools such as grep, sed, and awk, and the text processing performed by PowerShell.

The text output format follows the basic structure shown below. The columns are sorted alphabetically by the corresponding key names of the underlying JSON object.

IDENTIFIER sorted-column1 sorted-column2 IDENTIFIER2 sorted-column1 sorted-column2

The following is an example of text output. Each field is tab separated from the others, with an extra tab where there is an empty field.

$ aws iam list-users --output text
USERS arn:aws:iam::123456789012:user/Admin 2014-10-16T16:03:09+00:00 2016-06-03T18:37:29+00:00 / AIDA1111111111EXAMPLE Admin USERS arn:aws:iam::123456789012:user/backup/backup-user 2019-09-17T19:30:40+00:00 /backup/ AIDA2222222222EXAMPLE backup-user USERS arn:aws:iam::123456789012:user/cli-user 2019-09-17T19:11:39+00:00 / AIDA3333333333EXAMPLE cli-user

The fourth column is the PasswordLastUsed field, and is empty for the last two entries because those users never sign in to the Amazon Web Services Management Console.


We strongly recommend that if you specify text output, you also always use the --query option to ensure consistent behavior.

This is because the text format alphabetically orders output columns by the key name of the underlying JSON object returned by the Amazon service, and similar resources might not have the same key names. For example, the JSON representation of a Linux-based Amazon EC2 instance might have elements that are not present in the JSON representation of a Windows-based instance, or vice versa. Also, resources might have key-value elements added or removed in future updates, altering the column ordering. This is where --query augments the functionality of the text output to provide you with complete control over the output format.

In the following example, the command specifies which elements to display and defines the ordering of the columns with the list notation [key1, key2, ...]. This gives you full confidence that the correct key values are always displayed in the expected column. Finally, notice how the Amazon CLI outputs None as the value for keys that don't exist.

$ aws iam list-users --output text --query 'Users[*].[UserName,Arn,CreateDate,PasswordLastUsed,UserId]'
Admin arn:aws:iam::123456789012:user/Admin 2014-10-16T16:03:09+00:00 2016-06-03T18:37:29+00:00 AIDA1111111111EXAMPLE backup-user arn:aws:iam::123456789012:user/backup-user 2019-09-17T19:30:40+00:00 None AIDA2222222222EXAMPLE cli-user arn:aws:iam::123456789012:user/cli-backup 2019-09-17T19:11:39+00:00 None AIDA3333333333EXAMPLE

The following example shows how you can use grep and awk with the text output from the aws ec2 describe-instances command. The first command displays the Availability Zone, current state, and the instance ID of each instance in text output. The second command processes that output to display only the instance IDs of all running instances in the us-west-2a Availability Zone.

$ aws ec2 describe-instances --query 'Reservations[*].Instances[*].[Placement.AvailabilityZone, State.Name, InstanceId]' --output text
us-west-2a running i-4b41a37c us-west-2a stopped i-a071c394 us-west-2b stopped i-97a217a0 us-west-2a running i-3045b007 us-west-2a running i-6fc67758
$ aws ec2 describe-instances --query 'Reservations[*].Instances[*].[Placement.AvailabilityZone, State.Name, InstanceId]' --output text | grep us-west-2a | grep running | awk '{print $3}'
i-4b41a37c i-3045b007 i-6fc67758

The following example goes a step further and shows not only how to filter the output, but how to use that output to automate changing instance types for each stopped instance.

$ aws ec2 describe-instances --query 'Reservations[*].Instances[*].[State.Name, InstanceId]' --output text | > grep stopped | > awk '{print $2}' | > while read line; > do aws ec2 modify-instance-attribute --instance-id $line --instance-type '{"Value": "m1.medium"}'; > done

The text output can also be useful in PowerShell. Because the columns in text output are tab delimited, you can easily split the output into an array by using PowerShell's `t delimiter. The following command displays the value of the third column (InstanceId) if the first column (AvailabilityZone) matches the string us-west-2a.

PS C:\>aws ec2 describe-instances --query 'Reservations[*].Instances[*].[Placement.AvailabilityZone, State.Name, InstanceId]' --output text | %{if ($_.split("`t")[0] -match "us-west-2a") { $_.split("`t")[2]; } }
-4b41a37c i-a071c394 i-3045b007 i-6fc67758

Notice that although the previous example does show how to use the --query parameter to parse the underlying JSON objects and pull out the desired column, PowerShell has its own ability to handle JSON, if cross-platform compatibility isn't a concern. Instead of handling the output as text, as most command shells require, PowerShell lets you use the ConvertFrom-JSON cmdlet to produce a hierarchically structured object. You can then directly access the member you want from that object.

(aws ec2 describe-instances --output json | ConvertFrom-Json).Reservations.Instances.InstanceId

If you output text, and filter the output to a single field using the --query parameter, the output is a single line of tab-separated values. To get each value onto a separate line, you can put the output field in brackets, as shown in the following examples.

Tab separated, single-line output:

$ aws iam list-groups-for-user --user-name susan --output text --query "Groups[].GroupName"
HRDepartment Developers SpreadsheetUsers LocalAdmins

Each value on its own line by putting [GroupName] in brackets:

$ aws iam list-groups-for-user --user-name susan --output text --query "Groups[].[GroupName]"
HRDepartment Developers SpreadsheetUsers LocalAdmins

Table output format

The table format produces human-readable representations of complex Amazon CLI output in a tabular form.

$ aws iam list-users --output table
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- | ListUsers | +---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------+ || Users || |+----------------------------------------------------+---------------------------+---------------------------+----------+-----------------------+-------------+| || Arn | CreateDate | PasswordLastUsed | Path | UserId | UserName || |+----------------------------------------------------+---------------------------+---------------------------+----------+-----------------------+-------------+| || arn:aws:iam::123456789012:user/Admin | 2014-10-16T16:03:09+00:00 | 2016-06-03T18:37:29+00:00 | / | AIDA1111111111EXAMPLE | Admin || || arn:aws:iam::123456789012:user/backup/backup-user | 2019-09-17T19:30:40+00:00 | | /backup/ | AIDA2222222222EXAMPLE | backup-user || || arn:aws:iam::123456789012:user/cli-user | 2019-09-17T19:11:39+00:00 | | / | AIDA3333333333EXAMPLE | cli-user || +---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------+

You can combine the --query option with the table format to display a set of elements preselected from the raw output. Notice the output differences between dictionary and list notations: in the first example, column names are ordered alphabetically, and in the second example, unnamed columns are ordered as defined by the user. For more information about the --query option, see Filter Amazon CLI output.

$ aws ec2 describe-volumes --query 'Volumes[*].{ID:VolumeId,InstanceId:Attachments[0].InstanceId,AZ:AvailabilityZone,Size:Size}' --output table
------------------------------------------------------ | DescribeVolumes | +------------+----------------+--------------+-------+ | AZ | ID | InstanceId | Size | +------------+----------------+--------------+-------+ | us-west-2a| vol-e11a5288 | i-a071c394 | 30 | | us-west-2a| vol-2e410a47 | i-4b41a37c | 8 | +------------+----------------+--------------+-------+
$ aws ec2 describe-volumes --query 'Volumes[*].[VolumeId,Attachments[0].InstanceId,AvailabilityZone,Size]' --output table
---------------------------------------------------- | DescribeVolumes | +--------------+--------------+--------------+-----+ | vol-e11a5288| i-a071c394 | us-west-2a | 30 | | vol-2e410a47| i-4b41a37c | us-west-2a | 8 | +--------------+--------------+--------------+-----+