A new type of shell.


Nu draws inspiration from projects like PowerShell, functional programming languages, and modern CLI tools. Rather than thinking of files and services as raw streams of text, Nu looks at each input as something with structure. For example, when you list the contents of a directory, what you get back is a table of rows, where each row represents an item in that directory. These values can be piped through a series of steps, in a series of commands called a ‘pipeline’.

Example of nushell


In Unix, it’s common to pipe between commands to split up a sophisticated command over multiple steps. Nu takes this a step further and builds heavily on the idea of pipelines. Just as the Unix philosophy, Nu allows commands to output from stdout and read from stdin. Additionally, commands can output structured data (you can think of this as a third kind of stream). Commands that work in the pipeline fit into one of three categories:

Commands are separated by the pipe symbol (|) to denote a pipeline flowing left to right.

/home/jonathan/Source/nushell(master)> ls | where type == "Directory" | autoview
 #  │ name          │ type      │ size   │ created      │ accessed      │ modified
  0 │ .azure        │ Directory │   —    │ 6 months ago │ 3 days ago    │ 3 days ago
  1 │ .cargo        │ Directory │   —    │ 7 months ago │ a month ago   │ a month ago
  2 │ .circleci     │ Directory │   —    │ 4 months ago │ 3 months ago  │ 3 months ago
  3 │ .git          │ Directory │ 4.1 KB │ 7 months ago │ 7 minutes ago │ 7 minutes ago
  4 │ .github       │ Directory │   —    │ 3 months ago │ 2 months ago  │ 2 months ago
  5 │ .vscode       │ Directory │   —    │ 2 months ago │ 2 months ago  │ 2 months ago
  6 │ assets        │ Directory │   —    │ 5 months ago │ 5 months ago  │ 5 months ago
  7 │ crates        │ Directory │ 8.2 KB │ a month ago  │ a week ago    │ a week ago

Because most of the time you’ll want to see the output of a pipeline, autoview is assumed. We could have also written the above:

/home/jonathan/Source/nushell(master)> ls | where type == Directory

Being able to use the same commands and compose them differently is an important philosophy in Nu. For example, we could use the built-in ps command as well to get a list of the running processes, using the same where as above.

/home/jonathan/Source/nushell(master)> ps | where cpu > 0
 # │ pid   │ name            │ status   │ cpu
 0 │   992 │ chrome          │ Sleeping │ 6.988768
 1 │  4240 │ chrome          │ Sleeping │ 5.645982
 2 │ 13973 │ qemu-system-x86 │ Sleeping │ 4.996551
 3 │ 15746 │ nu              │ Sleeping │ 84.59905

Opening files

Nu can load file and URL contents as raw text or as structured data (if it recognizes the format). For example, you can load a .toml file as structured data and explore it:

/home/jonathan/Source/nushell(master)> open Cargo.toml
 bin              │ dependencies   │ dev-dependencies
 [table: 12 rows] │ [table: 1 row] │ [table: 1 row]

We can pipeline this into a command that gets the contents of one of the columns:

/home/jonathan/Source/nushell(master)> open Cargo.toml | get package
 authors         │ description                │ edition │ license │ name │ version
 [table: 3 rows] │ A shell for the GitHub era │ 2018    │ MIT     │ nu   │ 0.5.0

Finally, we can use commands outside of Nu once we have the data we want:

/home/jonathan/Source/nushell(master)> open Cargo.toml | get package.version | echo $it

Here we use the variable $it to refer to the value being piped to the external command.


Nu will work inside of a single directory and allow you to navigate around your filesystem by default. Nu also offers a way of adding additional working directories that you can jump between, allowing you to work in multiple directories at the same time.

To do so, use the enter command, which will allow you create a new “shell” and enter it at the specified path. You can toggle between this new shell and the original shell with the p (for previous) and n (for next), allowing you to navigate around a ring buffer of shells. Once you’re done with a shell, you can exit it and remove it from the ring buffer.

Finally, to get a list of all the current shells, you can use the shells command.


Nu supports plugins that offer additional functionality to the shell and follow the same structured data model that built-in commands use. This allows you to extend nu for your needs.

There are a few examples in the plugins directory.

Plugins are binaries that are available in your path and follow a nu_plugin_* naming convention. These binaries interact with nu via a simple JSON-RPC protocol where the command identifies itself and passes along its configuration, which then makes it available for use. If the plugin is a filter, data streams to it one element at a time, and it can stream data back in return via stdin/stdout. If the plugin is a sink, it is given the full vector of final data and is given free reign over stdin/stdout to use as it pleases.


Nu adheres closely to a set of goals that make up its design philosophy. As features are added, they are checked against these goals.