Python's subprocess module is a powerful tool that allows developers to spawn new processes, interact with them, and manage their input and output streams. It provides a simple and efficient way to execute external commands or scripts and handle their output.

In this article, we will explore the subprocess module in Python and how it can be used to interact with external processes.

Basic usage

The subprocess module provides several functions that can be used to spawn new processes. The most commonly used function is, which allows you to run a command and capture its output. Here's a simple example:

import subprocess

result =['echo', 'hello', 'world'], stdout=subprocess.PIPE)

In this example, we're running the echo command with two arguments (hello and world). The stdout parameter is set to subprocess.PIPE, which captures the output of the command. The decode() method is used to convert the byte string output to a regular string.

Handling errors

When executing external commands, errors can occur. The run() function will raise a CalledProcessError exception if the command exits with a non-zero return code. Here's an example:

import subprocess

    result =['ls', '/nonexistent'], check=True)
except subprocess.CalledProcessError as e:
    print(f"Command failed with return code {e.returncode}: {e.stderr.decode()}")

In this example, we're trying to list the contents of a non-existent directory. Since the check parameter is set to True, the run() function will raise an exception if the command fails. The CalledProcessError exception contains the return code and the error message.

Redirecting input and output

The run() function provides several parameters that can be used to redirect input and output streams. For example, you can redirect the standard output of a command to a file:

import subprocess

with open('output.txt', 'w') as f:['echo', 'hello', 'world'], stdout=f)

In this example, we're redirecting the standard output of the echo command to a file named output.txt.

Similarly, we can redirect the standard input of a command from a file:

import subprocess

with open('input.txt', 'r') as f:['sort'], stdin=f)

In this example, we're sorting the contents of a file named input.txt.


The subprocess module also provides a way to create pipelines between multiple commands. For example, you can pipe the output of one command to the input of another:

import subprocess

result =['ls', '-l'], stdout=subprocess.PIPE)['grep', 'README'], stdin=result.stdout)

In this example, we're listing the contents of a directory and then searching for files containing the string README.


The subprocess module in Python provides a powerful and flexible way to interact with external processes. It allows you to execute external commands, capture their output, and redirect input and output streams. It also provides a way to create pipelines between multiple commands. If you're working with external processes in Python, the subprocess module is an essential tool to have in your toolbox.

For more details on subprocess module, visit official documentation.