Exscript Templates

Simple example

The simplest possible template is one that contains only the commands that are sent to the remote host. For example, the following Exscript template can be used to retrieve the response of the ls -l and df commands from a unix host:

ls -l


Lines starting with a hash (“#”) are interpreted as comments and ignored. For example:

1. # This line is ignored...
2. {if __hostname__ is "test"}
3.   # ...and so is this one.
4. {end}

Using Variables

The following template uses a variable to execute the ls command with a filename as an argument:

ls -l $filename

When executing it from the command line, use:

exscript -d filename=.profile my.exscript localhost

Note that the -d switch allows passing variables into the template. The example executes the command ls -l .profile. You can also assign a value to a variable within a template:

{filename = ".profile"}
ls -l $filename

You may also use variables in strings by prefixing them with the “$” character:

1. {test = "my test"}
2. {if "my test one" is "$test one"}
3.   # This matches!
4. {end}

In the above template line 3 is reached. If you don’t want the “$” character to be interpreted as a variable, you may prefix it with a backslash:

1. {test = "my test"}
2. {if "my test one" is "\$test one"}
3.   # This does not match
4. {end}

Adding Variables To A List

In Exscript, every variable is a list. You can also merge two lists by using the “append” keyword:

1. {
2.   test1 = "one"
3.   test2 = "two"
4.   append test2 to test1
5. }

This results in the “test1” variable containing two items, “one” and “two”.

Using Built-in Variables

The following variables are available in any Exscript template, even if they were not explicitly passed in:

  1. __hostname__ contains the hostname that was used to open the current connection.
  2. __response__ contains the response of the remote host that was received after the execution of the last command.

Built-in variables are used just like any other variable. You can also assign a new value to a built-in variable in the same way.

Using Expressions

An expression is a combination of values, variables, operators, and functions that are interpreted (evaluated) according to particular rules and that produce a return value. For example, the following code is an expression:

name is "samuel" and 4 * 3 is not 11

In this expression, name is a variable, is, is not, and * are operators, and “samuel”, 4, 3, and 11 are values. The return value of this particular expression is true.

In Exscript, expressions are used in many places, such as if-conditions or variable assignments. The following operators may be used in an expression.

Priority 1 Operators

  1. * multiplies the operators (numerically).
  2. / divides the operators (numerically).

Priority 2 Operators

  1. + adds the operators (numerically).
  2. - subtracts the operators (numerically).

Priority 3 Operators

  1. . concatenates two strings.

Priority 4 Operators

  1. is tests for equality. If both operators are lists, only the first item in the list is compared.
  2. is not produces the opposite result from is.
  3. in tests whether the left string equals any of the items in the list given as the right operator.
  4. not in produces the opposite result from in.
  5. matches tests whether the left operator matches the regular expression that is given as the right operator.
  6. ge tests whether the left operator is (numerically) greater than or equal to the right operator.
  7. gt tests whether the left operator is (numerically) greater than the right operator.
  8. le tests whether the left operator is (numerically) less than or equal to the right operator.
  9. lt tests whether the left operator is (numerically) less than the right operator.

Priority 5 Operators

  1. not inverts the result of a comparison.

Priority 6 Operators

  1. and combines two tests such that a logical AND comparison is made. If the left operator returns FALSE, the right operator is not evaluated.
  2. or combines two tests such that a logical OR comparison is made. If the left operator returns TRUE, the right operator is not evaluated.

Using Hexadecimal Or Octal Numbers

Exscript also supports hexadecimal and octal numbers using the following syntax:

  if 0x0a is 012

Using Regular Expressions

At some places Exscript uses Regular Expressions. These are NOT the same as the expressions documented above, and if you do not know what regular expressions are it is recommended that you read a tutorial on regular expressions first.

Exscript regular expressions are similar to Perl and you may also append regular expression modifiers to them. For example, the following is a valid regular expression in Exscript:

/^cisco \d+\s+\w/i

Where the appended “i” is a modifier (meaning case-insensitive). A full explanation of regular expressions is not given here, because plenty of introductions have been written already and may be found with the internet search engine of your choice.

Built-in Commands

By default, any content of an Exscript template is sent to the remote host. However, you can also add instructions with special meanings. Such instructions are enclosed by curly brackets ({ and }). The following commands all use this syntax.

Extracting Data From A Response

Exscript lets you parse the response of a remote host using regular expressions. If you do not know what regular expressions are, please read a tutorial on regular expressions first.

extract … into …

If you already know what regular expressions are, consider the following template:

ls -l {extract /^(d.*)/ into directories}

The extract command matches each line of the response of “ls -l” against the regular expression /(d.*)/ and then appends the result of the first match group (a match group is a part of a regular expression that is enclosed by brackets) to the list variable named directories.

You can also extract the value of multiple match groups using the following syntax:

ls -l {extract /^(d\S+)\s.*\s(\S+)$/ into modes, directories}

This extracts the mode and the directory name from each line and appends them to the modes and directories lists respectively. You can also apply multiple matches to the same response using the following syntax:

ls -l {
  extract /^[^d].*\s(\S+)$/ into files
  extract /^d.*\s(\S+)$/    into directories

There is no limit to the number of extract statements.

extract … into … from …

When used without the “from” keyword, “extract” gets the values from the last command that was executed. You may however also instruct Exscript to extract the values from a variable. The following example shows how this may be done.

ls -l {
  extract /^(.*)/  into lines
  extract /^(d.*)/ into directories from lines

extract … as …

The “as” keyword is similar to “into”, the difference being that with as, the destination variable is cleared before new values are appended.

ls -l {extract /^(d.*)/ as directories}

“as” may be used anywhere where “into” is used.


You can execute commands depending on the runtime value of a variable or expression.

if … end

The following Exscript template executes the ls command only if ls -l .profile did not produce a result:

ls -l .profile {extract /(\.profile)$/ as found}
{if found is not ".profile"}

if … else … end

You can also add an else condition:

ls -l .profile {extract /(\.profile)$/ as found}
{if found is not ".profile"}
  touch .profile

if … else if …

You can perform multiple matches using else if:

ls -l .profile {extract /(.*profile)$/ as found}
{if found is ".profile"}
{else if found matches /my_profile/}
  ls -l p*
  touch .profile


Loops with counters

You can execute commands multiple times using the “loop” statement. The following Exscript template executes the “ls” command three times:

{number = 0}
{loop until number is 3}
  {number = number + 1}
  ls $directory

Similarly, the while statement may be used. The following script is equivalent:

{number = 0}
{loop while number is not 3}
  {number = number + 1}
  ls $directory

Another alternative is using the “loop from … to …” syntax, which allows you to specify a range of integers:

# Implicit "counter" variable.
{loop from 1 to 3}
  ls $directory$counter

# Explicit variable name.
{loop from 1 to 3 as number}
  ls $directory$number

Loops over lists

The following Exscript template uses the ls command to show the content of a list of subdirectories:

ls -l {extract /^d.*\s(\S+)$/ as directories}
{loop directories as directory}
  ls $directory

You can also walk through multiple lists at once, as long as they have the same number of items in it:

ls -l {extract /^(d\S+)\s.*\s(\S+)$/ as modes, directories}
{loop modes, directories as mode, directory}
  echo Directory has the mode $mode
  ls $directory

List loops can also be combined with the until or while statement seen in the previous section:

ls -l {extract /^d.*\s(\S+)$/ as directories}
{loop directories as directory until directory is "my_subdir"}
  ls $directory


Exscript provides builtin functions with the following syntax:

type.function(EXPRESSION, [EXPRESSION, ...])

For example, the following function instructs Exscript to wait for 10 seconds:


For a list of supported functions please check here:

Exiting A Script

fail “message”

The “fail” keyword may be used where a script should terminate immediately.

show something
{fail "Error: Failed!"}
show something else

In this script, the “show something else” line is never reached.

fail “message” if …

It is also possible to fail only if a specific condition is met. The following snippet terminates only if a Cisco router does not have a POS interface:

show ip int brie {
  extract /^(POS)\S+/ as pos_interfaces
  fail "No POS interface found!" if "POS" not in pos_interfaces

Error Handling

Exscript attempts to detect errors, such as commands that are not understood by the remote host. By default, Exscript considers any response that includes one of the following strings to be an error:

unknown command
[^\r\n]+ not found

If this default configuration does not suit your needs, you can override the default, setting it to any regular expression of your choice using the following function:


Whenever such an error is detected, the currently running Exscript template is cancelled on the current host. For example, when the following script is executed on a Cisco router, it will fail because there is no ls command:

ls -l
show ip int brief

The “show ip int brief” command is not executed, because an error is detected at “ls -l” at runtime.

If you want to execute the command regardless, you can wrap the “ls” command in a “try” block:

{try}ls -l{end}
show ip int brief

You can add as many commands as you like in between a try block. For example, the following will also work:

  ls -l
  show running-config
show ip int brief