Command Line Interface (CLI)

Visual Studio Code has a powerful command-line interface built-in that lets you control how you launch the editor. You can open files, install extensions, change the display language, and output diagnostics through command-line options (switches).

command line example

If you are looking for how to run command-line tools inside VS Code, see the Integrated Terminal.

Command line help

To get an overview of the VS Code command-line interface, open a terminal or command prompt and type code --help. You will see the version, usage example, and list of command line options.

command line help

Launching from command line

You can launch VS Code from the command line to quickly open a file, folder, or project. Typically, you open VS Code within the context of a folder. To do this, from an open terminal or command prompt, navigate to your project folder and type code .:

launch VS Code

Note: Users on macOS must first run a command (Shell Command: Install 'code' command in PATH) to add VS Code executable to the PATH environment variable. Read the macOS setup guide for help.

Windows and Linux installations should add the VS Code binaries location to your system path. If this isn't the case, you can manually add the location to the Path environment variable ($PATH on Linux). For example, on Windows, the default VS Code binaries location is AppData\Local\Programs\Microsoft VS Code\bin. To review platform-specific setup instructions, see Setup.

Insiders: If you are using the VS Code Insiders preview, you launch your Insiders build with code-insiders.

Core CLI options

Here are optional arguments you can use when starting VS Code at the command line via code:

Argument Description
-h or --help Print usage
-v or --version Print VS Code version (for example, 1.22.2), GitHub commit ID, and architecture (for example, x64).
-n or --new-window Opens a new session of VS Code instead of restoring the previous session (default).
-r or --reuse-window Forces opening a file or folder in the last active window.
-g or --goto When used with file:line{:character}, opens a file at a specific line and optional character position. This argument is provided since some operating systems permit : in a file name.
-d or --diff <file1> <file2> Open a file difference editor. Requires two file paths as arguments.
-m or --merge <path1> <path2> <base> <result> Perform a three-way merge by providing paths for two modified versions of a file, the common origin of both modified versions, and the output file to save merge results.
-w or --wait Wait for the files to be closed before returning.
--locale <locale> Set the display language (locale) for the VS Code session. (for example, en-US or zh-TW)

launch with locale

Opening Files and Folders

Sometimes you will want to open or create a file. If the specified file does not exist, VS Code will create them for you along with any new intermediate folders:

code index.html style.css documentation\

For both files and folders, you can use absolute or relative paths. Relative paths are relative to the current directory of the command prompt where you run code.

If you specify more than one file at the command line, VS Code will open only a single instance.

If you specify more than one folder at the command line, VS Code will create a Multi-root Workspace including each folder.

Argument Description
file Name of a file to open. If the file doesn't exist, it will be created and marked as edited. You can specify multiple files by separating each file name with a space.
file:line[:character] Used with the -g argument. Name of a file to open at the specified line and optional character position.
folder Name of a folder to open. You can specify multiple folders and a new Multi-root Workspace is created.

go to line and column

Select a profile

You can launch VS Code with a specific profile via the --profile command-line interface option. You pass the name of the profile after the --profile argument and open a folder or a workspace using that profile. The command line below opens the web-sample folder with the "Web Development" profile:

code ~/projects/web-sample --profile "Web Development"

If the profile specified does not exist, a new empty profile with the given name is created.

Working with extensions

You can install and manage VS Code extensions from the command line.

Argument Description
--install-extension <ext> Install an extension. Provide the full extension name publisher.extension as an argument. Use --force argument to avoid prompts.
--uninstall-extension <ext> Uninstall an extension. Provide the full extension name publisher.extension as an argument.
--disable-extensions Disable all installed extensions. Extensions will still be visible in the Disabled section of the Extensions view but they will never be activated.
--list-extensions List the installed extensions.
--show-versions Show versions of installed extensions, when using --list-extensions
--enable-proposed-api <ext> Enables proposed api features for an extension. Provide the full extension name publisher.extension as an argument.

install extension

Advanced CLI options

There are several CLI options that help with reproducing errors and advanced setup.

Argument Description
--extensions-dir <dir> Set the root path for extensions.
Overridden in Portable Mode by the data folder.
--user-data-dir <dir> Specifies the directory that user data is kept in, useful when running as root.
Overridden in Portable Mode by the data folder.
-s, --status Print process usage and diagnostics information.
-p, --performance Start with the Developer: Startup Performance command enabled.
--disable-gpu Disable GPU hardware acceleration.
--verbose Print verbose output (implies --wait).
--prof-startup Run CPU profiler during startup.
--upload-logs Uploads logs from current session to a secure endpoint.
--add <dir> Add folder(s) to the last active window for a multi-root workspace.

Create remote tunnel

VS Code integrates with other remote environments to become even more powerful and flexible. Our goal is to provide a cohesive experience that allows you to manage both local and remote machines from one, unified CLI.

The Visual Studio Code Remote - Tunnels extension lets you connect to a remote machine, like a desktop PC or VM, via a secure tunnel. Tunneling securely transmits data from one network to another. You can then securely connect to that machine from anywhere, without the requirement of SSH.

We've built functionality into the code CLI that will initiate tunnels on remote machines. You can run:

code tunnel

to create a tunnel on your remote machine. You may connect to this machine through a web or desktop VS Code client.

You can review the other tunneling commands by running code tunnel -help:

Output of tunnel help CLI command

As you may need to run the CLI on a remote machine that can't install VS Code Desktop, the CLI is also available for standalone install on the VS Code download page.

For more information on Remote Tunnels, you can review the Remote Tunnels documentation.

Opening VS Code with URLs

You can also open projects and files using the platform's URL handling mechanism. Use the following URL formats to:

Open a project

vscode://file/{full path to project}/


Open a file

vscode://file/{full path to file}


Open a file to line and column

vscode://file/{full path to file}:line:column


You can use the URL in applications such as browsers or file explorers that can parse and redirect the URL. For example, on Windows, you could pass a vscode:// URL directly to the Windows Explorer or to the command line as start vscode://{full path to file}.

vscode url in Windows Explorer

Note: If you are using VS Code Insiders builds, the URL prefix is vscode-insiders://.

Next steps

Read on to find out about:

Common questions

'code' is not recognized as an internal or external command

Your OS cannot find the VS Code binary code on its path. The VS Code Windows and Linux installations should have installed VS Code on your path. Try uninstalling and reinstalling VS Code. If code is still not found, consult the platform-specific setup topics for Windows and Linux.

On macOS, you need to manually run the Shell Command: Install 'code' command in PATH command (available through the Command Palette ⇧⌘P (Windows, Linux Ctrl+Shift+P)). Consult the macOS specific setup topic for details.

How do I get access to a command line (terminal) from within VS Code?

VS Code has an Integrated Terminal where you can run command-line tools from within VS Code.

Can I specify the settings location for VS Code in order to have a portable version?

Not directly through the command line, but VS Code has a Portable Mode, which lets you keep settings and data in the same location as your installation, for example, on a USB drive.

How do I detect when a shell was launched by VS Code?

When VS Code starts up, it may launch a shell in order to source the "shell environment" to help set up tools. This will launch an interactive login shell and fetch its environment. Depending on your shell setup, this may cause problems. For example, it may be unexpected that the shell is launched as an interactive session, which VS Code needs in order to try to align $PATH with the exact value in a user created terminal.

Whenever VS Code launches this initial shell, VS Code sets the variable VSCODE_RESOLVING_ENVIRONMENT to 1. If your shell or user scripts need to know if they are being run in the context of this shell, you can check the VSCODE_RESOLVING_ENVIRONMENT value.