Configuration Settings

Introduction to the Config Interface

Cement defines a Config Interface, as well as the default ConfigParserConfigHandler that implements the interface. This handler is built on top of ConfigParser which is included in the Python standard library. Therefore, this class will work much like ConfigParser but with any added functions necessary to meet the requirements of the interface.

Cement often includes multiple handler implementations of an interface that may or may not have additional features or functionality than the interface requires. The documentation below only references usage based on the interface and default handler (not the full capabilities of an implementation).

Cement Extensions That Provide Config Handlers:

API References:


Application Meta Options

The following options under App.Meta modify configuration handling:




Default configuration dictionary.


List of configuration directory paths where config files will be loaded from. These are merged together with App.Meta.core_system_config_dirs and App.Meta.core_user_config_dirs


The suffix (extension) of configuration files. Default: .conf


List of configuration file paths to load.


The configuration handler that implements the config interface.


The section label of the application's configuration within config files. Defaults: App.Meta.label

Configuration Load Order

An application's configuration is made up of a number of things, including default settings, handler defaults, config file settings, environment variables, etc. The following is the order in which configurations are discovered and loaded:

Application Default Settings

Cement does not require default config settings in order to operate. That said, these settings are found under the App.Meta.label section of the configuration, and overridden by a [<app_label>] block from configuration files.
from cement import App, init_defaults

CONFIG = init_defaults('myapp', 'log.logging')
CONFIG['myapp']['foo'] = 'bar'
CONFIG['log.logging']['level'] = 'info'

class MyApp(App):
    class Meta:
        label = 'myapp'
        config_defaults = CONFIG
foo = bar

level = info

Note that init_defaults is a helper from the Miscellaneous Utility Module, and simply generates a dict with nested dicts of the given keys. It does not do anything special, but is used throughout the documentation as it generally makes things more readable in examples.

You can always use a standard dict for configuration and meta defaults, which often makes more sense when building larger applications with a lot of default settings to manage.

Builtin Default Configuration Settings

Cement defines a list of meta options that can be overridden by configuration settings in App.Meta.core_meta_override (used by the framework), and App.Meta.meta_override (used by the application developer). These are not required to exist in the config defaults or parsed configuration files. However, if they do, Cement will honor them and override the defined application meta options.

Configuration File Loading

Cement defines the following builtin default configuration file paths:


We also define the following configuration directories to scan for additional configuration files for extensions and plugins:


These lists are dynamically generated based on the App.meta.label, as well as App.meta.config_file_suffix. They can be extended by adding files via App.Meta.config_files or directories to App.Meta.config_dirs.

Accessing Configuration Settings

After application creation and setup, you can access the config handler via the app.config object.

from cement import App

with App('myapp') as app:

# get a setting
    app.config.get('myapp', 'debug')

# set settings
    app.config.set('myapp', 'debug', True)

# get a list of sections

    # add a section

# test if a section exists

    # get configuration keys for the 'myapp' section

    # test if a key exists
    if 'debug' in app.config.keys('myapp'):

    # merge a dict of settings into the config
    other_config = {
        'myapp': {
            'foo': 'not bar',

    # parse a file into the config

    # get a dict of the entire config

Configuration Settings vs. Meta Options

As you will see extensively throughout the Cement code is the use of meta options. There can be some confusion between the use of meta options, and application configuration settings.

The key detail to note is that configuration settings are intended to be used and modified by the end-user, whereas meta options are intended to be used by the application developer to alter the application's core functionality.

Configuration Settings

Configuration settings are application specific. There are config defaults defined by the application developer, that can be (and are intended to be) overridden by end-user defined settings in a configuration file.

Cement does not rely on the application configuration, though it can honor configuration settings. For example, App honors the debug config option which is documented, but it doesn't rely on it existing either.

The key things to note about application configuration settings are:

  • They give the end-user flexibility in how the application operates.

  • Anything that you want users to be able to customize via a config file should be defined in the application's configuration. For example, the path to a log file or the location of a database server. These are things that you do not want hard-coded into your app, but rather should have sane and functional defaults for.

Meta Options

Meta options are used on the backend by developers to alter how classes operate. For example, the App.Meta.log_handler defines the default log handler as logging (cement.ext.ext_logging.LoggingLogHandler), however because this is built on an interface definition, Cement can use any other log handler the same way without issue as long as that log handler properly implements the interface definition. Meta options make this change seamless and allows the handler to alter functionality, rather than having to change code in the top level class itself.

The key thing to note about meta options are:

  • They give the developer flexibility in how the code operates.

  • End users should not have access to modify meta options via a config file or similar 'dynamic' configuration unless explicitly listed in Cement.Meta.core_meta_override or CementApp.Meta.meta_override (for example, the debug setting under the [<app_label>] section overrides App.Meta.debug by default.

  • Meta options are used to alter how classes work, but they are considered 'hard-coded' settings. If the developer chooses to alter a meta option, it is for the life of that release.

  • Meta options should have a sane default, and be clearly documented.

Application Defaults vs Handler Defaults

There may be slight confusion between the App.Meta.config_defaults and the Handler.Meta.config_defaults meta options. They both are very similar, however the application level configuration defaults are intended to be used to set defaults for multiple sections. Therefore, the App.Meta.config_defaults option is a dict with nested dicts under it. Each key of the top level dict relates to a config [section] and the nested dicts are the settings for that [section].

The Handler.Meta.config_defaults only pertain to a single [section] and therefore is only a single level dict, whose settings are applied to that section of the application's configuration (defined by Handler.Meta.config_section).

Creating a Config Handler

All interfaces in Cement can be overridden with your own implementation. This can be done either by sub-classing ConfigHandler itself, or by sub-classing an existing extension's handlers in order to alter their functionality.
from cement import App
from cement.core.config import ConfigHandler

class MyConfigHandler(ConfigHandler):
    class Meta:
        label = 'my_config_handler'

    # do something to implement the interface

class MyApp(App):
    class Meta:
        label = 'myapp'
        config_handler = 'my_config_handler'
        handlers = [

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