gcloud tool overview

This page contains an overview of the gcloud command-line tool and its common command patterns and capabilities.

What is the gcloud tool?

The gcloud command-line tool is the primary CLI tool to create and manage Google Cloud resources. You can use this tool to perform many common platform tasks either from the command line or in scripts and other automations.

For example, you can use the gcloud tool to create and manage:

  • Compute Engine virtual machine instances and other resources
  • Cloud SQL instances
  • GKE clusters
  • Dataproc clusters and jobs
  • Cloud DNS managed zones and record sets
  • Cloud Deployment Manager deployments

You can also use the gcloud tool to deploy App Engine applications, manage authentication, customize local configuration, and perform other tasks. For more information about the capabilities of gcloud tool, see the gcloud tool reference.

The gcloud tool cheat sheet

For a quick introduction to the gcloud tool, a list of commonly used commands, and a look at how these commands are structured, refer to the gcloud tool cheat sheet.

The gcloud tool and Cloud SDK

The gcloud tool is a part of the Cloud SDK. You must download and install the Cloud SDK on your system and initialize it before you can use the gcloud tool.

By default, the Cloud SDK installs gcloud tool commands that are at the General Availability level only. Additional functionality is available in Cloud SDK components named alpha and beta. These components allow you to use the gcloud tool to work with Cloud Bigtable, Dataflow, and other parts of Google Cloud at earlier release levels than General Availability.

The gcloud tool releases have the same version number as the Cloud SDK. The current Cloud SDK version is 365.0.1. You can download and install previous versions of the Cloud SDK from the download archive.

Downloading the gcloud tool

You can download the latest version of Cloud SDK, which includes the gcloud tool, from the download page.

Release levels

The gcloud tool commands have the following release levels:

Release level Label Description
General Availability None Commands are considered fully stable and available for production use. Advance warnings will be made for commands that break current functionality and documented in the release notes.
Beta beta Commands are functionally complete, but may still have some outstanding issues. Breaking changes to these commands may be made without notice.
Alpha alpha Commands are in early release and may change without notice.

The alpha and beta components are not installed by default when you install the Cloud SDK. You must install these components separately using the gcloud components install command. If you try to run an alpha or beta command and the corresponding component is not installed, the gcloud tool prompts you to install it.

Command groups

Within each release level, gcloud tool commands are organized into a nested hierarchy of command groups, each of which represents a product or feature of Google Cloud or its functional subgroups.

For example:

Command group Description
gcloud compute Commands related to Compute Engine in general availability
gcloud compute instances Commands related to Compute Engine instances in general availability
gcloud beta compute Commands related to Compute Engine in Beta
gcloud alpha app Commands related to managing App Engine deployments in Alpha

Running gcloud tool commands

You can run gcloud tool commands from the command line in the same way you use other command-line tools. You can also run gcloud tool commands from scripts and other automations, for example, when using Jenkins to automate Google Cloud tasks.


gcloud tool properties are settings that affect the behavior of the gcloud tool and other Cloud SDK tools. Some of these properties can be set by either global or command flags - in which case, the value set by the flag takes precedence.

Enabling accessibility features

For a more streamlined screen reader experience, the gcloud tool comes with an accessibility/screen_reader property.

To enable this property, run:

gcloud config set accessibility/screen_reader true

For more details about the accessibility features that come with the gcloud command-line tool, refer to the Enabling accessibility features guide.


A configuration is a named set of gcloud tool properties. It works like a profile.

Starting off with Cloud SDK, you'll work with a single configuration named default and you can set properties by running either gcloud init or gcloud config set. This single default configuration is suitable for most use cases.

If you'd like to work with multiple projects or authorization accounts, you can set up multiple configurations with gcloud config configurations create and switch among them accordingly. Within these configurations, you can customize properties. For example, to set your project within an active configuration use the project property: gcloud config set project <project-id>.

For a detailed account of these concepts, see the Configurations guide.

Global flags

The gcloud tool provides a set of gcloud tool-wide flags that govern the behavior of commands on a per-invocation level. Flags override any values set in Cloud SDK properties.

Positional arguments and flags

While both positional arguments and flags affect the output of a gcloud tool command, there is a subtle difference in their use cases. A positional argument is used to define an entity on which a command operates while a flag is required to set a variation in a command's behaviour.

Use of stdout and stderr

Successful output of gcloud tool commands is written to stdout. All other types of responses - prompts, warnings, and errors - are written to stderr. Note that anything written to stderr is not stable and should not be scripted against.

For a definitive list of guidelines on handling output, refer to the Scripting guide.


To protect against unintended destructive actions, the gcloud tool confirms your intentions before executing commands such as gcloud projects delete.

You can also expect prompts if you were to create a Compute Engine virtual machine instance, say 'test-instance', using gcloud compute instances create test-instance. You will be asked to choose a zone to create the instance in.

To disable prompting, use the --quiet flag.

Suppressing prompting, writing to the terminal, and logging

The --quiet flag (also, -q) for the gcloud tool disables all interactive prompts when running gcloud tool commands and comes in handy when scripting. If input is needed, defaults are used. If there aren't defaults, an error is raised.

To suppress printing of command output to standard output and standard error in the terminal, use the --no-user-output-enabled flag.

To adjust verbosity of logs instead, use the --verbosity flag with an appropriate level (debug, info, warning, error, critical, or none).

Determining output structure

By default, when a gcloud tool command returns a list of resources, they are pretty-printed to standard output. To produce more meaningful output, the format, filter and projection flags allow you to finetune your output.

If you'd like to define just the format of your output, use the --format flag to produce a tabulated or flattened version of your output (for interactive display) or a machine-readable version of the output (json, csv, yaml, value).

To format a list of keys that select resource data values, use projections. To further refine your output to criteria you define, use filter.

If you'd like to work through a quick interactive tutorial to help get you familiar with filter and format functionality, follow the link below.

Open in Cloud Shell

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