Linux command-line call not returning what it should from os.system?


I need to make some command line calls to linux and get the return from this, however doing it as below is just returning 0 when it should return a time value, like 00:08:19, I am testing the exact same call in regular command line and it returns the time value 00:08:19 so I am confused as to what I am doing wrong as I thought this was how to do it in python.

import os
retvalue = os.system("ps -p 2993 -o time --no-headers")
print retvalue
3/12/2018 2:37:22 PM

Accepted Answer

What gets returned is the return value of executing this command. What you see in while executing it directly is the output of the command in stdout. That 0 is returned means, there was no error in execution.

Use popen etc for capturing the output .

Some thing along this line:

import subprocess as sub
p = sub.Popen(['your command', 'arg1', 'arg2', ...],stdout=sub.PIPE,stderr=sub.PIPE)
output, errors = p.communicate()
print output


import os
p = os.popen('command',"r")
while 1:
    line = p.readline()
    if not line: break
    print line

ON SO : Popen and python

5/23/2017 12:25:45 PM

If you're only interested in the output from the process, it's easiest to use subprocess' check_output function:

output = subprocess.check_output(["command", "arg1", "arg2"]);

Then output holds the program output to stdout. Check the link above for more info.


The simplest way is like this:

import os
retvalue = os.popen("ps -p 2993 -o time --no-headers").readlines()
print retvalue

This will be returned as a list


Your code returns 0 if the execution of the commands passed is successful and non zero if it fails. The following program works on python2.7, haven checked 3 and versions above. Try this code.

>>> import commands
>>> ret = commands.getoutput("ps -p 2993 -o time --no-headers")
>>> print ret

Yes it's counter-intuitive and does not seem very pythonic, but it actually just mimics the unix API design, where these calld are C POSIX functions. Check man 3 popen && man 3 system

Somewhat more convenient snippet to replace os.system that I use:

from subprocess import (PIPE, Popen)

def invoke(command):
    Invoke command as a new system process and return its output.
    return Popen(command, stdout=PIPE, shell=True)

result = invoke('echo Hi, bash!')
# Result contains standard output (as you expected it in the first place).

I can not add a comment to IonicBurger because I do not have "50 reputation" so I will add a new entry. My apologies. os.popen() is the best for multiple/complicated commands (my opinion) and also for getting the return value in addition to getting stdout like the following more complicated multiple commands:

import os
out = [ i.strip() for i in os.popen(r"ls *.py | grep -i '.*file' 2>/dev/null; echo $? ").readlines()]
print "     stdout: ", out[:-1]
print "returnValue: ", out[-1]

This will list all python files that have the word 'file' anywhere in their name. The [...] is a list comprehension to remove (strip) the newline character from each entry. The echo $? is a shell command to show the return status of the last command executed which will be the grep command and the last item of the list in this example. the 2>/dev/null says to print the stderr of the grep command to /dev/null so it does not show up in the output. The 'r' before the 'ls' command is to use the raw string so the shell will not interpret metacharacters like '*' incorrectly. This works in python 2.7. Here is the sample output:

      stdout:  ['', '', '', '']
 returnValue:  0

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