InSpec Shell

The InSpec interactive shell is a pry based REPL that can be used to quickly run InSpec controls and tests without having to write it to a file. Its functionality is similar to chef shell - it provides a way to exercise the InSpec DSL, its resources, tests and plugins without having to create a profile or write a test file. See for an introduction to what pry is and what it can do.

Launching the shell

If you are using InSpec from a platform-specific package (rpm, msi, etc.) or from a chef prepared shell in ChefDK, you can directly launch InSpec shell against your local machine using the following. See for details.

$ inspec shell
$ inspec help shell # This will describe inspec shell usage

If you wish to connect to a remote machine (called a target within InSpec), you can use the -t flag. We support connecting using ssh, WinRm and docker. If no target is provided, we implicitly support the “local” target - i.e. tests running on the current machine running InSpec. For an ssh connection, use -i for specifying ssh key files, and the --sudo* commands for requesting a privelege escalation after logging in. For a WinRM connection, use --path to change the login path, --ssl to use SSL for transport layer encryption.

$ inspec shell -t ssh://root@  # Login to remote machine using ssh as root.
$ inspec shell -t ssh://user@hostname:1234 -i /path/to/user_key  # Login to hostname on port 1234 as user using given ssh key.
$ inspec shell -t winrm://UserName:Password@windowsmachine:1234  # Login to windowsmachine over WinRM as UserName.
$ inspec shell -t docker://container_id # Login to a docker container.

Using Ruby in InSpec shell

Since InSpec shell is pry based, you may treat the shell as an interactive Ruby session. You may write Ruby expressions and evaluate them. Source high-lighting, automatic indentation and command history (using the up and down arrow keys) are available to make your experience more delightful. You can exit the shell using exit.

$ inspec shell
Welcome to the interactive InSpec Shell
To find out how to use it, type: help

inspec> 1 + 2
=> 3
inspec> exit

Using InSpec DSL in InSpec shell

InSpec shell will automatically evaluate the result of every command as if it were a test file. If you type in a Ruby command that is not an InSpec control or test, the shell will evaluate it as if it were a regular ruby command.

Bare InSpec resources are instantiated and their help text is presented. You may also access the resource contents or other matchers that they define. Run help <resource> to get more help on using a particular resource or see the InSpec resources documentation online.

$ inspec shell
Welcome to the interactive InSpec Shell
To find out how to use it, type: help

inspec> file('/Users/ksubramanian').directory?
=> true
inspec> os_env('HOME')
=> Environment variable HOME
inspec> os_env('HOME').content
=> /Users/ksubramanian
inspec> exit

InSpec tests are immediately executed.

inspec> describe file('/Users')     # Empty test.
Summary: 0 successful, 0 failures, 0 skipped
inspec> describe file('/Users') do  # Test with one check.
inspec>   it { should exist }
inspec> end
  ✔  File /Users should exist

Summary: 1 successful, 0 failures, 0 skipped

All tests in a control are immediately executed as well. If a control is redefined in the shell, the old control’s tests are destroyed and replaced with the redefinition and the control is re-run.

inspec> control 'my_control' do
inspec>   describe os_env('HOME') do
inspec>     its('content') { should eq '/Users/ksubramanian' }
inspec>   end
inspec> end
  ✔  my_control: Environment variable HOME content should eq "/Users/ksubramanian"

  Summary: 1 successful, 0 failures, 0 skipped

Syntax errors are illegal tests are also detected and reported.

inspec> control 'foo' do
inspec>   thisisnonsense
inspec> end
NameError: undefined local variable or method `thisisnonsense' for #<#<Class:0x007fd63b571f98>:0x007fd639825cc8>
from /usr/local/lib/ruby/gems/2.3.0/gems/rspec-expectations-3.5.0/lib/rspec/matchers.rb:967:in `method_missing'
inspec> control 'foo' do
inspec>   describe file('wut') do
inspec>     its('thismakesnosense') { should cmp 'fail' }
inspec>   end
inspec> end
  ✖  foo: File wut thismakesnosense  (undefined method `thismakesnosense' for File wut:Inspec::Resource::Registry::File)

  Summary: 0 successful, 1 failures, 0 skipped

Running a single InSpec command

If you wish to run a single InSpec command and fetch its results, you may use the -c flag. This is similar to using bash -c.

$ inspec shell -c 'describe file("/Users/ksubramanian") do it { should exist } end'}
Target:  local://

  ✔  File /Users/ksubramanian should exist

Summary: 1 successful, 0 failures, 0 skipped
$ inspec shell --format json -c 'describe file("/Users/ksubramanian") do it { should exist } end'
{"version":"0.30.0","profiles":{"":{"supports":[],"controls":{"(generated from in_memory.rb:1 5aab65c33fb1f133d9244017958eef64)":{"title":null,"desc":null,"impact":0.5,"refs":[],"tags":{},"code":"          rule =, profile_id, {}) do\n            res = describe(*args, &block)\n          end\n","source_location":{"ref":"/Users/ksubramanian/repo/chef/inspec/lib/inspec/profile_context.rb","line":184},"results":[{"status":"passed","code_desc":"File /Users/ksubramanian should exist","run_time":0.000747,"start_time":"2016-08-16 11:41:40 -0400"}]}},"groups":{"in_memory.rb":{"title":null,"controls":["(generated from in_memory.rb:1 5aab65c33fb1f133d9244017958eef64)"]}},"attributes":[]}},"other_checks":[],"summary":{"duration":0.001078,"example_count":1,"failure_count":0,"skip_count":0}}}