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, VS Code is installed under 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 Open a file difference editor. Requires two file paths as arguments.
-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. You can specify multiple files in this manner, but you must use the -g argument (once) before using the file:line[:character] specifier.
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

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. Has no effect in Portable Mode.
--user-data-dir <dir> Specifies the directory that user data is kept in, useful when running as root. Has no effect in Portable Mode.
-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.

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.