I've written a script that semi-automates the process of configuring/creating a new systemd service.

The script is working perfectly well, however, I've had some trouble with the styling and readability, as well as with the argparse logic (argument parsing works well, but there is just too much to handle manually and not automatically with argparse, because I have many arguments and they have different requirements) - I don't know if what I've done is best practice, because to me right now, it looks like a very poor idea.

The script right now loads a default schema (template) and allows the user to interactively configure a service using the options that are present in that template.

Notes: Version of Python used is 3.5.
There are some single cases of use where bugs might appear, however, the script is working correctly overall and the existence of such possible bugs should be ignored for the sake of this question, as they are not for here.

Available arguments for the script:

-c/--schema: Just loads a different template configuration to use 
for the interactive "asking" process. Takes the path to that template.

-s/--short: Uses a default schema (template) that is shorter than the 
original one (has less and more basic options)

-x/--extended: Uses a default schema (template) that is longer than the 
original one (has more options that are more complex)

-d/--directory: The directory in which the script should 
save the service unit file, by default "/etc/systemd/system".

--delete: Deletes the service unit file of the specified service name and 
disables/stops that service. If used, should be the only argument used 
along with service_name.

--edit: Edits the service unit file (opens an editor) 
of the specified service name. If used, should be the only argument used 
along with service_name.

-b/--build: Builds a default service configuration unit file as an example. 
Should be the ONLY argument used, even the 
positional argument service_name should not be used.

--info: Outputs information about the script - purpose, maintainer, etc. 
Again should be the ONLY argument used.

service_name: The positional argument which tells what is the name 
of the service that has to be configured/edited/deleted. 
Doesn't have to be used with --build/--info.

The script:

#!/usr/bin/env python3

This is a helper script that semi-automates the process
of configuring/editing systemd services.

Examples --
Create a service using a short preset configuration:
sudo ./service-config.py --short some_service_name

Create a service using a custom preset configuration template:
sudo ./service-config.py -c some_schema some_service_name

Edit an existing service:
sudo ./service-config.py --edit some_service_name

# To do list:
1. Document the script.
2. Fix permission issues with some of the arguments.
3. Add a configuration file for the script for 
   some of the default values and options. (?)
4. Allow the user to choose an editor.

1. This script requires root privileges for most use-cases.
2. Skipping a configuration option (just pressing enter) without
   supplying any value will just tell the script to skip that option.


import argparse
import configparser
import datetime
import os
import subprocess
import sys
import time

from collections import OrderedDict


VERSION             = "0.4"
MAINTAINER_EMAIL    = "[email protected]"
TRACE               = True
SCHEMA              = "schemas/service-config"
SCHEMA_SHORT        = "schemas/short_service-config"
SCHEMA_EXTENDED     = "schemas/extended_service-config"
CONFIG              = None # for future uses
OUTPUT_DIR          = "/etc/systemd/system"


USER_ABORT          = 5
ARGPARSE_ERR        = 6
GLOBAL_ERR          = 8
SCHEMA_ERR          = 9
SYSTEMD_ERR         = 10
UID_ERROR           = 11
FINISH_ERROR        = 12


DEFAULT_EDITOR           = "vim"
DEFAULT_BUILD_SCHEMA     = "schemas/default-schema"

DEFAULT_AFTER            = "network.target"
DEFAULT_TYPE             = "simple"
DEFAULT_USER             = "root"
DEFAULT_GROUP            = "root"
DEFAULT_EXEC_START       = "/bin/true"
DEFAULT_EXEC_STOP        = "/bin/true"
DEFAULT_KILL_MODE        = "control-group"
DEFAULT_PID_FILE         = "/run/service.pid"
DEFAULT_RESTART          = "on-failure"
DEFAULT_ENVIRONMENT_FILE = "/etc/service/env"
DEFAULT_WANTED_BY        = "multi-user.target"

# COLORS AND Formatting:

def tty_supports_ansi():
    """Checks whether the terminal used supports ANSI codes."""

    for handle in [sys.stdout, sys.stderr]:
        if ((hasattr(handle, "isatty") and handle.isatty()) or
            ('TERM' in os.environ and os.environ['TERM'] == "ANSI")):
            return True
            return False

class Formatting:
    A class containing constants with most Formatting/basic colors
    for Unix-based terminals and vtys.
    Does NOT work on Windows cmd, PowerShell, and their varieties!

    RESET            = "\033[0m"
    BOLD             = "\033[1m"
    DIM              = "\033[2m"
    ITALIC           = "\033[3m"
    UNDERLINE        = "\033[4m"
    BLINK            = "\033[5m" # Doesn't work on some terminals.
    INVERT           = "\033[7m"
    HIDDEN           = "\033[8m"
    FG_DEFAULT       = "\033[39m"
    FG_BLACK         = "\033[30m"
    FG_RED           = "\033[31m"
    FG_GREEN         = "\033[32m"
    FG_YELLOW        = "\033[33m"
    FG_BLUE          = "\033[34m"
    FG_MAGENTA       = "\033[35m"
    FG_CYAN          = "\033[36m"
    FG_LIGHT_GRAY    = "\033[37m"
    FG_DARK_GRAY     = "\033[90m"
    FG_LIGHT_RED     = "\033[91m"
    FG_LIGHT_GREEN   = "\033[92m"
    FG_LIGHT_YELLOW  = "\033[93m"
    FG_LIGHT_BLUE    = "\033[94m"
    FG_LIGHT_MAGENTA = "\033[95m"
    FG_LIGHT_CYAN    = "\033[96m"
    FG_WHITE         = "\033[97m"
    BG_DEFAULT       = "\033[49m"
    BG_BLACK         = "\033[40m"
    BG_RED           = "\033[41m"
    BG_GREEN         = "\033[42m"
    BG_YELLOW        = "\033[43m"
    BG_BLUE          = "\033[44m"
    BG_MAGENTA       = "\033[45m"
    BG_CYAN          = "\033[46m"
    BG_LIGHT_GRAY    = "\033[47m"
    BG_DARK_GRAY     = "\033[100m"
    BG_LIGHT_RED     = "\033[101m"
    BG_LIGHT_GREEN   = "\033[102m"
    BG_LIGHT_YELLOW  = "\033[103m"
    BG_LIGHT_BLUE    = "\033[104m"
    BG_LIGHT_MAGENTA = "\033[105m"
    BG_LIGHT_CYAN    = "\033[106m"
    BG_WHITE         = "\033[107m"

    def __init__(self):
        self.is_supported = tty_supports_ansi()

    def ansi(self, ansi_key):
        The format method for this class. Returns the proper
        chosen formatting if it is supported, else does nothing.
        Takes ansi_key as argument, where ansi_key is one of the
        defined constants in the class.
        if self.is_supported:
            return getattr(self, ansi_key)
            return ""

# The formatting/color class handler variable

FTY = Formatting()

# Code starts from here:

def printf(text, f="RESET", **kwargs):
    A print function with formatting.
    Always prints on stdout.
    As arguments takes:
    1. string (text to print)
    2. formatting type (bold, italic, etc.)
    3+. kwargs passed to the print function.

    f = FTY.ansi(f.upper())

    print("{}{}".format(f, text), file=sys.stdout, **kwargs)

def print_info():
    """Print information about the script."""

    printf("This is a helper script for configuring systemd services.", f="bold")
    printf("{}Maintainer: {}{}".format(FTY.ansi("FG_GREEN"), FTY.ansi("RESET"), MAINTAINER_NICK))
    printf("{}Email: {}{}".format(FTY.ansi("FG_GREEN"), FTY.ansi("RESET"), MAINTAINER_EMAIL))


def parse_arg():
    """Get user arguments and configure them."""

    parser = argparse.ArgumentParser(description="Systemd services configuration script")
    no_pos = parser.add_mutually_exclusive_group()
    schema = parser.add_mutually_exclusive_group()
    exclus = parser.add_mutually_exclusive_group()
                        help="Choose a custom schema and load defaults from it.",
                        help="Directly edit a systemd unit file.",
                        help="Show information about the script.",
                        help="Builds a default schema in schemas/default-schema",
                        help="Use a short configuration schema.",
                        help="Use a long configuration schema.",
                        help="Output directory for the service unit file.",
                        help="Delete the specified service's configuration file.",
                        help="The name of the service to configure/edit.",

        args = parser.parse_args()
    except argparse.ArgumentError:
        print("Error: An error occured while parsing your arguments.", file=sys.stderr)

    return args

def check_parser_opts(args):
    Check if all supplied arguments are used correctly.
    Returns an error if the combination of 
    supplied arguments is illegal.
    For arguments that are supposed to be 
    single checks if any other arguments
    are used (besides directory and schema, 
    since they have default values already).

    all_args = [

    error = False

    # --build is supposed to be used alone.
    if args.build:
        for arg in all_args:
            if (arg is not 'build'     and 
                arg is not 'directory' and 
                arg is not 'schema'):
                value = getattr(args, arg)
                value = None
            if value:
                print("The argument -b/--build cannot be used with {}.".format(arg))
                error = True

    # --info is supposed to be used alone.
    if args.info:
        for arg in all_args:
            if (arg is not 'info'      and 
                arg is not 'directory' and 
                arg is not 'schema'):
                value = getattr(args, arg)
                value = None
            if value:
                print("The argument --info cannot be used with {}.".format(arg))
                error = True

    # --delete is supposed to be used only with service_name.
    if args.delete:
        for arg in all_args:
            if (arg is not 'delete'    and 
                arg is not 'directory' and 
                arg is not 'schema'    and 
                arg is not 'service_name'):
                value = getattr(args, arg)
                value = None
            if value:
                print("The argument --delete cannot be used with {}.".format(arg))
                error = True

    # --edit is supposed to be used only with service_name.
    if args.edit:
        for arg in all_args:
            if (arg is not 'edit'      and 
                arg is not 'directory' and 
                arg is not 'schema'    and 
                arg is not 'service_name'):
                value = getattr(args, arg)
                value = None
            if value:
                print("The argument --edit cannot be used with {}.".format(arg))
                error = True

    if error:
        printf("{}Error: wrong argument usage, aborting.".format(FTY.ansi("FG_RED")), f="bold")

def get_fragment_path(service):
    Returns the path of the systemd service's unit configuration file.

    # Extremely ugly (imo) multiline statement
    sysctl_out = subprocess.check_output("systemctl show {} -p FragmentPath".format(service), 
    filename = sysctl_out.decode('utf-8').strip().split('=')[1]

    return filename

def edit(service, manual=False, finish=True):
    Open the service's systemd service 
    unit configuration file for editing.

    # Check if destination is already set to the full path.
    if manual:
        file = service
        file = get_fragment_path(service)

    # Open vim to edit the configuration file. This is a TODO.
    with subprocess.Popen(["{} {}".format(DEFAULT_EDITOR, file)], shell=True) as command:

    if finish: 
        finish(file, mode="edit")

def delete(service):
    Deletes the given service configuration file, 
    stops and disables the service.

    # Get the destination of the service unit file.
    destination = get_fragment_path(service)

    # Ask the user for confirmation if it's a system service.
    if destination.startswith("/lib/systemd/system"):
        print("This is not a user-configured service, do you want to delete it anyway? [y/N]: ")
        force_delete = input()
        if not (force_delete and (force_delete.lower() == 'y' or force_delete.lower() == 'yes')):

    # Stop, disable, and delete the service.
    print("Deleting service...")
    sysctl_service(service, "stop")
    sysctl_service(service, "disable")
    print("Deleted service.")

def setup(args):
    Check systemd version available on the host to confirm compability.
    Also checks whether we have permissions to use
    most of the script's functionality.

    # Get the systemd version to confirm compability. This is for a future update.
        systemd_version = subprocess.check_output('systemd --version', shell=True)
        systemd_version = int(systemd_version.strip().split()[1])
    except subprocess.CalledProcessError:
        print("Systemd isn't working on your system. Why even use this script?", file=sys.stderr)

    if os.getuid() > 0 and not args.build and args.directory == OUTPUT_DIR:
        # Extremely ugly (imo) multiline statement
        printf("{}Insufficient permissions. "
               "You have to run the script as root (with sudo).".format(
                FTY.ansi("FG_LIGHT_RED")), f="bold", file=sys.stderr)

    return systemd_version

def build():
    Build a default example unit configuration schema, 
    using default constants.

    if os.path.exists(DEFAULT_BUILD_SCHEMA):
        print("Error: {} already exists.".format(DEFAULT_BUILD_SCHEMA), file=sys.stderr)
        schema = configparser.ConfigParser()
        schema.optionxform = str
        schema['Unit'] = OrderedDict(
            Description     = DEFAULT_DESCRIPTION,
            After           = DEFAULT_AFTER

        schema['Service'] = OrderedDict(
            Type            = DEFAULT_TYPE,
            ExecStart       = DEFAULT_EXEC_START,
            ExecStop        = DEFAULT_EXEC_STOP,
            Restart         = DEFAULT_RESTART,
            RestartSec      = DEFAULT_RESTART_SEC,
            User            = DEFAULT_USER,
            Group           = DEFAULT_GROUP,
            PIDFile         = DEFAULT_PID_FILE,
            EnvironmentFile = DEFAULT_ENVIRONMENT_FILE,
            KillMode        = DEFAULT_KILL_MODE,
            KillSignal      = DEFAULT_KILL_SIGNAL,
            TimeoutStopSec  = DEFAULT_TIMEOUT_STOP_SEC,
            StandardOutput  = DEFAULT_STANDARD_OUTPUT,
            StandardError   = DEFAULT_STANDARD_ERROR,
            DynamicUser     = DEFAULT_DYNAMIC_USER

        schema['Install'] = OrderedDict(
            WantedBy        = DEFAULT_WANTED_BY

        with open(DEFAULT_BUILD_SCHEMA, 'w+') as schemafile:

        finish(DEFAULT_BUILD_SCHEMA, mode="build")

def load_schema(schema):
    Read the service unit configuration file and load it.

    config_dict = {}

    config = configparser.ConfigParser()
    config.optionxform = str

    return config

def parse_config(cfg):
    Parse the configuration file and return it as dictionaries.

    config         = argparse.Namespace(**OrderedDict(cfg))
    config.Unit    = OrderedDict(config.Unit)
    config.Service = OrderedDict(config.Service)
    config.Install = OrderedDict(config.Install)

    return config

def write_config(cfg, destination):
    Save the unit configuration file to the destination.

    config = configparser.ConfigParser()
    config.optionxform = str
    config['Unit'] = cfg.Unit
    config['Service'] = cfg.Service
    if cfg.Install:
        config['Install'] = cfg.Install
    with open(destination, 'w') as unitfile:
        unitfile.write("# Automatically generated by service-config.\n")

def user_configuration(config):
    Let the user interactively configure the unit file.

    user_config = config

    # Ask for the [Unit] section's keys.
    printf("{}[Unit] section configuration:".format(FTY.ansi("FG_YELLOW")), f="bold")
    for key in config.Unit:
        printf("{}{}={}".format(FTY.ansi("FG_GREEN"), key, FTY.ansi("RESET")), f="bold", end="")
        value = input()
        user_config.Unit[key] = value

    # Ask for the [Service] section's keys.
    printf("{}[Service] section configuration:".format(FTY.ansi("FG_BLUE")), f="bold")
    for key in config.Service:
        printf("{}{}={}".format(FTY.ansi("FG_GREEN"), key, FTY.ansi("RESET")), f="bold", end="")
        value = input()
        user_config.Service[key] = value

    # Ask for the [Install] section's keys.
    printf("{}[Install] section configuration:".format(FTY.ansi("FG_MAGENTA")), f="bold")
    for key in config.Install:
        printf("{}{}={}".format(FTY.ansi("FG_GREEN"), key, FTY.ansi("RESET")), f="bold", end="")
        value = input()
        user_config.Install[key] = value

    # Clear the dictionaries from any empty keys.
    user_config.Unit = {k: v for k, v in user_config.Unit.items() if v}
    user_config.Service = {k: v for k, v in user_config.Service.items() if v}
    user_config.Install = {k: v for k, v in user_config.Install.items() if v}

    return user_config

def service_reload():
    A simple daemon-reload wrapper.

    subprocess.call('systemctl daemon-reload', shell=True)

def sysctl_service(service, action):
    A simple systemctl wrapper for service management.

    subprocess.call('systemctl {} {}'.format(action, service), shell=True)

def finish(destination, mode="create"):
    Checks whether the file has been saved successfully and exits.

    if os.path.exists(destination):
        if mode == "create":
            print("{}Service created successfully.".format(FTY.ansi("FG_GREEN")))
        elif mode == "edit":
            print("{}Service edited successfully.".format(FTY.ansi("FG_YELLOW")))
        elif mode == "build":
            print("{}Default schema built successfully.".format(FTY.ansi("FG_BLUE")))
        print("The script failed to finish successfully.")

def main():
    The main function that handles the program.

    # Get the parsed arguments.
    args = parse_arg()

    # Check the version of systemd and check permissions.
    systemd_version = setup(args)

    # Exit if service_name contains illegal characters.
    if args.service_name:
        if '\x00' in args.service_name or '/' in args.service_name:
            print("Service name contains symbols that are not allowed.")

    if args.delete:
    if args.info:
    if args.build:
    if args.edit:
    if args.short:
        args.schema = SCHEMA_SHORT
        print("Using short schema configuration.")
    if args.extended:
        args.schema = SCHEMA_EXTENDED
        print("Using extended schema configuration.")

    # Load and parse the unit configuration schema.
    schema = load_schema(args.schema)
    config = parse_config(schema)

    # Start interactive configuration, aborts on CTRL-C/CTRL-D.
        user_config = user_configuration(config)
    except (EOFError, KeyboardInterrupt):

    # Check whether the supplied service name ends with .service.
    if not args.service_name.endswith('.service'):
        args.service_name = args.service_name + '.service'

    # Save the configured unit file to the destination directory.
    destination = os.path.join(args.directory, args.service_name)
    write_config(user_config, destination)

    # Interactive section:

    print("Do you want to manually edit the new configuration? [y/N]: ", end="")
    manual = input()

    if manual and manual.lower() == "y":
        print("Opening editor...")
        edit(destination, manual=True, finish=False)
        print("The configuration file won't be edited.")

    # Allow these options only if we have permissions for them.
    if os.getuid() == 0:
        print("Do you want to enable the service? [y/N]: ", end="")
        enable = input()

        if enable and enable.lower() == "y":
            print("Enabling service...")
            sysctl_service(args.service_name, "enable")
            print("Service enabled.")
            print("Service won't be enabled.")

        print("Do you want to start the service? [Y/n]: ", end="")
        start = input()

        if not start or (start and start.lower() == "y"):
            print("Starting service...")
            sysctl_service(args.service_name, "start")
            print("Service started.")
            print("Service won't be started.")

    elif os.getuid() > 0:
        # Extremely ugly (imo) multiline statement
        print("{}No permissions to enable/start service. "
              "Need to run with root privileges.".format(FTY.ansi("FG_RED")))


# Name guard for main process.
if __name__ == "__main__":
    # Don't use global error handling if TRACE is set to True.
    if TRACE:
    elif not TRACE:
        except Exception as error:
            print("A global exception has been caught.", file=sys.stderr)
            print(err, file=sys.stderr)

I want this script to be reviewed for styling/formatting and readability. I do want it to be fairly easy to read it, since I won't be keeping it only to myself.


  1. I've had issues with styling. There are some "extremely ugly multiline statements" that I've made in order to comply with the 100 characters limit I've chosen. Such lines are commented, I do believe them to be ugly. Is the way I've made them really best practice or is there a better way?
    An example of such a line is the following:

    # Extremely ugly (imo) multiline statement
    printf("{}Insufficient permissions. "
           "You have to run the script as root (with sudo).".format(
            FTY.ansi("FG_LIGHT_RED")), f="bold", file=sys.stderr)
  2. The Formatting class. I have a class that I use to format/colorize the output of my script, however, the ANSI color codes do not work on every terminal, thus I've made the class the way it is. Is it good practice to have such a class with constants and return the values of those constants by using a method (that allows me to check if the terminal supports ANSI)? Is the way I've gone about coloring/formatting the output a good idea at all, having so many constants for that in my main program and also having a variable to initialize such a class?

  3. The way I check for the argument usage. Sure, I have mutually exclusive groups, but those aren't nearly enough to help me achieve what I need. So I've made a function check_parser_opts(args) that checks whether the arguments are used correctly with a bunch of if statements. Is the way I've done it proper, how could I go about this? Or should I just try to simplify my arguments and not have this many?
  4. I've always wondered how should my functions be ordered. Which function should be in which part of the file, after which function, and etc. Is there any "proper" way to order your functions? Currently I just have my main() function at the bottom and I just put everything else above it, without really thinking too much.

Note: For enthusiasts that are interested in the progress of this script, you can follow the github repo.


1 Answer 1


Regarding your questions:

  1. I think the readability suffers mostly because of how the nesting flips the order of the strings around, it doesn't feel particularly nice to read it out of order, essentially.

  2. The Formatting class could be replaced by an existing library (there are also some ideas about possible DSLs there, like via the new format strings in Python 3.6), but in the absence of that of course constants are a good idea, perhaps in a bit less duplication than you're using here, or perhaps while generating some of these numbers. In any case it's most likely write-once code, so I wouldn't be worried too much about that.

    Regarding colours, keep also in mind that some terminals support way more than just sixteen colours! Or none at all. Using a (good) library might go a long way to transparently support all of those.

  3. That function has a lot of duplication, which usually to me means to find a more succint phrasing. However, in this case, wouldn't it be more meaningful to have subcommands (like e.g. git diff etc.) to distinguish between mutually exclusive choices?

    N.b. (x is not 'a' and x is not 'b') should likely be x not in ('a', 'b', ...) instead.

  4. The Python style guide doesn't touch that topic as far as I can tell. Many programs I've seen have the main and if __name__ == "__main__": ... block last and that's where I personally put it too. For the rest, well, put together what belongs together, IMO. If you constantly have to move around to find a definition that's somewhat of a sign for me, but there's no absolute right and often you'll still ask yourself where this or that helper function should go. So, if you read the program as it is now, from top to bottom, or the other way round, can you easily follow the structure of the story? In which case it's fine, if not, perhaps you should move something around. As always, consistency is something to strive for (that is, don't do it one way in the first file, then completely switch it (without a good reason) in the next one).

Code wise: Looks pretty clean, you've obviously spent a lot of time making it look good, I can easily follow it, which is great!

  • tty_supports_ansi, the if isn't necessary, just return (hasattr...).
  • The {k: v for k, v in ... if v} thing happens thrice, just make it a function at that point.
  • The prompt for y[es] happens multiple times, make that a function too (e.g. if prompt("Do you want to start the service?"): ... or so).

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