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Things get hairy when you want an option to take a variable number of arguments. For this case, you must write a callback, as optparse doesn't provide any built-in capabilities for it. And you have to deal with certain intricacies of conventional Unix command-line parsing that optparse normally handles for you. In particular, callbacks should implement the conventional rules for bare "-" and "-" arguments:

  • either "-" or "-" can be option arguments

  • bare "-" (if not the argument to some option): halt command-line processing and discard the "-"

  • bare "-" (if not the argument to some option): halt command-line processing but keep the "-" (append it to parser.largs)

If you want an option that takes a variable number of arguments, there are several subtle, tricky issues to worry about. The exact implementation you choose will be based on which trade-offs you're willing to make for your application (which is why optparse doesn't support this sort of thing directly).

Nevertheless, here's a stab at a callback for an option with variable arguments:

def vararg_callback(option, opt_str, value, parser):
    assert value is None
    done = 0
    value = []
    rargs = parser.rargs
    while rargs:
        arg = rargs[0]

        # Stop if we hit an arg like "--foo", "-a", "-fx", "--file=f",
        # etc.  Note that this also stops on "-3" or "-3.0", so if
        # your option takes numeric values, you will need to handle
        # this.
        if ((arg[:2] == "--" and len(arg) > 2) or
            (arg[:1] == "-" and len(arg) > 1 and arg[1] != "-")):
            del rargs[0]

     setattr(parser.values, option.dest, value)

parser.add_option("-c", "--callback",
                  action="callback", callback=varargs)

The main weakness with this particular implementation is that negative numbers in the arguments following "-c" will be interpreted as further options (probably causing an error), rather than as arguments to "-c". Fixing this is left as an exercise for the reader.

See About this document... for information on suggesting changes.