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Chef InSpec Shell

The Chef InSpec interactive shell is a pry-based REPL that can be used to quickly run Chef InSpec controls and tests without having to write it to a file. Its functionality is similar to chef-shell as it provides a way to exercise the Chef InSpec Language, 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.

See Explore Chef InSpec resources on Learn Chef for a hands-on example that uses Chef InSpec shell.

Launch the shell

If you are using Chef InSpec from a platform-specific package (rpm, msi, etc.) or from a Chef prepared shell in Chef Workstation, you can directly launch Chef InSpec shell against your local machine using the inspec shell command.

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, Docker, Podman and many other target types. 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 privilege 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 winrm://windowsmachine --user 'UserName@domain' --password 'Secret123!' # Login to windowsmachine as
inspec shell -t docker://container_id # Login to a Docker container.
inspec shell -t podman://container_id --podman-url "unix:///run/user/$UID/podman/podman.sock" #Login to Podman rootless container.

Resource Packs

Use resource packs to share custom resources with other Chef InSpec users. A resource pack is a Chef InSpec profile that contains only custom resources and no other controls or tests.

For example, the profile in examples/profile in the Chef InSpec GitHub repository defines an example_config resource. To use these resources within the Chef InSpec shell, you will need to download and specify them as a dependency.

Once you have local access to the profile, you can use the example_config custom resource provided in the examples/profile GitHub repo in your local environment :

inspec shell --depends examples/profile

Once inside the shell your resource will be available:

inspec> example_config

Use Ruby

Since Chef InSpec shell is pry based, you can treat the shell as an interactive Ruby session. You can 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

Use InSpec DSL

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

Bare Chef 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 Chef InSpec resources documentation online.

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

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

Chef 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/username' }
inspec>   end
inspec> end
  ✔  my_control: Environment variable HOME content should eq "/Users/username"

  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

Run InSpec commands

You can run a single Chef InSpec command and fetch its results using the -c flag. This is similar to using bash -c.

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

  ✔  File /Users/username should exist

Summary: 1 successful, 0 failures, 0 skipped
$ inspec shell --format json -c 'describe file("/Users/test") do it { should exist } end'
  "version": "1.49.2",
  "controls": [{
    "status": "passed",
    "code_desc": "File /Users/test should exist",
    "run_time": 0.002374,
    "start_time": "2018-01-06 18:32:38 -0500"
  "other_checks": [],
  "profiles": [{
    "name": "inspec-shell",
    "supports": [],
    "controls": [{
      "title": null,
      "desc": null,
      "impact": 0.5,
      "refs": [],
      "tags": {},
      "code": "",
      "source_location": {
        "ref": "/usr/local/lib/ruby/gems/2.4.0/gems/inspec-1.49.2/lib/inspec/control_eval_context.rb",
        "line": 89
      "id": "(generated from (eval):1 7b6f82c2cc5e4205b3e2c97c8e855f2d)",
      "results": [{
        "status": "passed",
        "code_desc": "File /Users/test should exist",
        "run_time": 0.002374,
        "start_time": "2018-01-06 18:32:38 -0500"
    "groups": [{
      "title": null,
      "controls": ["(generated from (eval):1 7b6f82c2cc5e4205b3e2c97c8e855f2d)"],
      "id": "unknown"
    "attributes": [],
    "sha256": "29c070a90b7e3521babf618215573284a790d92907783d5b2c138f411bfd2e74"
  "platform": {
    "name": "mac_os_x",
    "release": "17.3.0"
  "statistics": {
    "duration": 0.003171

Set inputs

With InSpec profiles that support inputs, you can set inputs using the InSpec shell command. This allows you to work more consistently with InSpec profiles when switching between the shell and exec commands.

For more details on inputs, see the inputs reference.

Set inputs with command-line options

The shell command accepts one or more inputs in the command line as single-quoted YAML or JSON structures.

$ inspec shell --input=input_name=input_value
Welcome to the interactive InSpec Shell
To find out how to use it, type: help

inspec> control 'my_control' do
inspec>   describe input('input_name') do
inspec>     it { should cmp 'input_value' }
inspec>   end
inspec> end
Profile: inspec-shell

  ✔  my_control: input_value
     ✔  input_value is expected to cmp == "input_value"

Profile Summary: 1 successful control, 0 control failures, 0 controls skipped
Test Summary: 1 successful, 0 failures, 0 skipped
inspec> exit

Set inputs with YAML file

You can also save inputs and values to one or more YAML files and pass them to shell in the command line. For example:

input_name: input_value
another_input: another_value
inspec shell --input-file=<path>
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