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Integrating shell commands into your dataflow with prefect-shell


The prefect-shell collection makes it easy to execute shell commands in your Prefect flows. Check out the examples below to get started!

Getting Started

Integrate with Prefect flows

With prefect-shell, you can bring your trusty shell commands (and/or scripts) straight into the Prefect flow party, complete with awesome Prefect logging.

No more separate logs, just seamless integration. Let's get the shell-abration started!

from prefect import flow
from datetime import datetime
from prefect_shell import ShellOperation

def download_data():
    today ="%Y%m%d")

    # for short running operations, you can use the `run` method
    # which automatically manages the context
            "mkdir -p data",
            "mkdir -p data/${today}"
        env={"today": today}

    # for long running operations, you can use a context manager
    with ShellOperation(
            "curl -O",
    ) as download_csv_operation:

        # trigger runs the process in the background
        download_csv_process = download_csv_operation.trigger()

        # then do other things here in the meantime, like download another file

        # when you're ready, wait for the process to finish

        # if you'd like to get the output lines, you can use the `fetch_result` method
        output_lines = download_csv_process.fetch_result()



14:48:16.550 | INFO    | prefect.engine - Created flow run 'tentacled-chachalaca' for flow 'download-data'
14:48:17.977 | INFO    | Flow run 'tentacled-chachalaca' - PID 19360 triggered with 2 commands running inside the '.' directory.
14:48:17.987 | INFO    | Flow run 'tentacled-chachalaca' - PID 19360 completed with return code 0.
14:48:17.994 | INFO    | Flow run 'tentacled-chachalaca' - PID 19363 triggered with 1 commands running inside the PosixPath('data/20230201') directory.
14:48:18.009 | INFO    | Flow run 'tentacled-chachalaca' - PID 19363 stream output:
  % Total    % Received % Xferd  Average Speed   Time    Time     Time  Current
14:48:18.010 | INFO    | Flow run 'tentacled-chachalaca' - PID 19363 stream output:
oad  Upload   Total   Spent    Left  Speed
  0     0    0     0    0     0      0      0 --:--:-- --:--:-- --:--:--     0
14:48:18.840 | INFO    | Flow run 'tentacled-chachalaca' - PID 19363 stream output:
 11 1630k   11  192k    0     0   229k      0  0:00:07 --:--:--  0:00:07  231k
14:48:19.839 | INFO    | Flow run 'tentacled-chachalaca' - PID 19363 stream output:
 83 1630k   83 1368k    0     0   745k      0  0:00:02  0:00:01  0:00:01  747k
14:48:19.993 | INFO    | Flow run 'tentacled-chachalaca' - PID 19363 stream output:
100 1630k  100 1630k    0     0   819k      0  0
14:48:19.994 | INFO    | Flow run 'tentacled-chachalaca' - PID 19363 stream output:
:00:01  0:00:01 --:--:--  821k
14:48:19.996 | INFO    | Flow run 'tentacled-chachalaca' - PID 19363 completed with return code 0.
14:48:19.998 | INFO    | Flow run 'tentacled-chachalaca' - Successfully closed all open processes.
14:48:20.203 | INFO    | Flow run 'tentacled-chachalaca' - Finished in state Completed()

Utilize Previously Saved Blocks

You can save commands within a ShellOperation block, then reuse them across multiple flows, or even plain Python scripts.

Save the block with desired commands:

from prefect_shell import ShellOperation

ping_op = ShellOperation(commands=["ping -t 1"])"block-name")

Load the saved block:

from prefect_shell import ShellOperation

ping_op = ShellOperation.load("block-name")

To view and edit the blocks on Prefect UI:

prefect block register -m prefect_shell


For more tips on how to use tasks and flows in a Collection, check out Using Collections!


Install prefect-shell with pip:

pip install -U prefect-shell

A list of available blocks in prefect-shell and their setup instructions can be found here.

Requires an installation of Python 3.7+.

We recommend using a Python virtual environment manager such as pipenv, conda or virtualenv.

These tasks are designed to work with Prefect 2. For more information about how to use Prefect, please refer to the Prefect documentation.


If you encounter any bugs while using prefect-shell, feel free to open an issue in the prefect-shell repository.

If you have any questions or issues while using prefect-shell, you can find help in either the Prefect Discourse forum or the Prefect Slack community.

Feel free to star or watch prefect-shell for updates too!


If you'd like to help contribute to fix an issue or add a feature to prefect-shell, please propose changes through a pull request from a fork of the repository.

Here are the steps:

  1. Fork the repository
  2. Clone the forked repository
  3. Install the repository and its dependencies:
    pip install -e ".[dev]"
  4. Make desired changes
  5. Add tests
  6. Insert an entry to
  7. Install pre-commit to perform quality checks prior to commit:
    pre-commit install
  8. git commit, git push, and create a pull request