Library Use

Fabric’s primary use case is via fabfiles and the fab tool, and this is reflected in much of the documentation. However, Fabric’s internals are written in such a manner as to be easily used without fab or fabfiles at all – this document will show you how.

There’s really only a couple of considerations one must keep in mind, when compared to writing a fabfile and using fab to run it: how connections are really made, and how disconnections occur.


We’ve documented how Fabric really connects to its hosts before, but it’s currently somewhat buried in the middle of the overall execution docs. Specifically, you’ll want to skip over to the Connections section and read it real quick. (You should really give that entire document a once-over, but it’s not absolutely required.)

As that section mentions, the key is simply that run, sudo and the other operations only look in one place when connecting: env.host_string. All of the other mechanisms for setting hosts are interpreted by the fab tool when it runs, and don’t matter when running as a library.

This is a good thing, insofar as it gives library users very granular control over which commands are run on which hosts. However, at present, it also means you may need to do a bit more heavy lifting compared to a regular fabfile: you can’t rely on env.hosts or the host/role decorators, and instead need to write your own for loops.

For example, this is how a fabfile could force a given subroutine (task) to run on two hosts in a row:

@hosts('a', 'b')
def mytask():

To get the same behavior in library usage, you’d need to do this:

def mytask():

for host in ['a', 'b']:
    with settings(host_string=host):

In future revisions we’ll be adding more tools to make this a bit easier, perhaps something like execute(task_object, host_list), but for now it’s up to you.


The other main thing that fab does for you is to disconnect from all hosts at the end of a session; otherwise, Python will sit around forever waiting for those network resources to be released.

Fabric 0.9.4 and newer have a function you can use to do this easily: disconnect_all. Simply make sure your code calls this when it terminates (typically in the finally clause of an outer try: finally statement – lest errors in your code prevent disconnections from happening!) and things ought to work pretty well.

If you’re on Fabric 0.9.3 or older, you can simply do this (disconnect_all just adds a bit of nice output to this logic):

from fabric.state import connections

for key in connections.keys():
    del connections[key]

Final note

This document is a first draft, and may not cover absolutely every difference between fab use and library use. However, the above should highlight the largest stumbling blocks. When in doubt, note that in the Fabric source code, fabric/ contains the bulk of the extra work done by fab, and may serve as a useful reference.

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