Supporting Multi-Step Commands With Spring Shell

Out of the box, Spring Shell supports printing command results to the terminal in a fairly basic way.

Spring Shell also provides the ExecutionProcessor interface, allowing a “command provider to be called in a generic fashion just before, and right after, executing a command”.

The interface defines three lifecycle events that can be intercepted:

  • before a command has been invoked
  • after an invocation has been returned
  • after an exception was thrown

I was interested in hooking into the afterReturningInvocation to provide “step logic” - potentially allowing user or system input to execute additional logic based on the result of the initial command result (and/or each step result) e.g. paging backwards or forwards on the command line through lists of data.

I was able to achieve this and opened a JIRA ticket and the following pull request on Spring Shell’s GitHub repo: SHL-174: Multi-Step Commands #67

When writing command execution results to the terminal, Spring Shell’s AbstractShell examines the instance being returned by the command and logs at INFO level the toString() output of the result object. If the result object is an instance of Iterable, it iterates over the collection and logs the toString() of each entry:
protected void handleExecutionResult(Object result) {
  if (result instanceof Iterable<?>) {
      for (Object o : (Iterable<?>) result) {
  } else {;

When planning out my solution, I came up with the following back-of-the-napkin outline:

  • a new custom annotation would be created and would be put on the command method. The ParseResult invocationContext instance passed into the processor methods could then be checked to see if the method being invoked had that annotation present, denoting a multi-step command.

  • an abstract implementation of ExecutionProcessor would override the afterReturningInvocation method and detect if a multi-step command had been invoked. Command classes requiring multi-step logic would extend this class.

  • the step logic would be configurable in that it could:

    • determine if there were more steps to execute,
    • configure each step in preparation of execution,
    • execute the step, and
    • handle each step execution’s result (e.g. logging to the shell), if any.
  • the solution should also ensure that the command’s original/final result was handled correctly.


I created a new annotation that denotes a @CliCommand-annotated method supports multi-step processing:
public @interface CliStepIndicator {


I created a new abstract class implementing ExecutionProcessor. The afterReturningInvocation method is overridden with the following logic:

  • checks if this invocation is on a multi-step command
  • the initial result from the command is handled and this is fact is stored on the shell
  • while there are more steps
    • configure the next step
    • execute the next step in the workflow
    • handle the step execution result

Example is an example command class with a multi-step command (step-test) method annotated with @CliStepIndicator.

Each step increments a int variable (see configureStep), up to 3 times (see hasMoreSteps). Each step execution logs that it is executing (see executeStep), and step results are handled by printing the current int variable value (see handleStepExecutionResult).

The following integration test executes both the step-test multi-step command (to increment the int variable 3 times) and the step-check comand (to confirm the incrementation took place).

The test passes and prints the following output:

Test Result

I’ll be posting shortly about how I used this feature in a recent CLI project to navigate API pagination, run simulations, diff audit log entries etc.