pty — Pseudo-terminal utilities

Source code: Lib/

The pty module defines operations for handling the pseudo-terminal concept: starting another process and being able to write to and read from its controlling terminal programmatically.

Pseudo-terminal handling is highly platform dependent. This code is mainly tested on Linux, FreeBSD, and macOS (it is supposed to work on other POSIX platforms but it’s not been thoroughly tested).

The pty module defines the following functions:


Fork. Connect the child’s controlling terminal to a pseudo-terminal. Return value is (pid, fd). Note that the child gets pid 0, and the fd is invalid. The parent’s return value is the pid of the child, and fd is a file descriptor connected to the child’s controlling terminal (and also to the child’s standard input and output).


Open a new pseudo-terminal pair, using os.openpty() if possible, or emulation code for generic Unix systems. Return a pair of file descriptors (master, slave), for the master and the slave end, respectively.

pty.spawn(argv[, master_read[, stdin_read]])

Spawn a process, and connect its controlling terminal with the current process’s standard io. This is often used to baffle programs which insist on reading from the controlling terminal. It is expected that the process spawned behind the pty will eventually terminate, and when it does spawn will return.

A loop copies STDIN of the current process to the child and data received from the child to STDOUT of the current process. It is not signaled to the child if STDIN of the current process closes down.

The functions master_read and stdin_read are passed a file descriptor which they should read from, and they should always return a byte string. In order to force spawn to return before the child process exits an empty byte array should be returned to signal end of file.

The default implementation for both functions will read and return up to 1024 bytes each time the function is called. The master_read callback is passed the pseudoterminal’s master file descriptor to read output from the child process, and stdin_read is passed file descriptor 0, to read from the parent process’s standard input.

Returning an empty byte string from either callback is interpreted as an end-of-file (EOF) condition, and that callback will not be called after that. If stdin_read signals EOF the controlling terminal can no longer communicate with the parent process OR the child process. Unless the child process will quit without any input, spawn will then loop forever. If master_read signals EOF the same behavior results (on linux at least).

Return the exit status value from os.waitpid() on the child process.

waitstatus_to_exitcode() can be used to convert the exit status into an exit code.

Raises an auditing event pty.spawn with argument argv.

Changed in version 3.4: spawn() now returns the status value from os.waitpid() on the child process.


The following program acts like the Unix command script(1), using a pseudo-terminal to record all input and output of a terminal session in a “typescript”.

import argparse
import os
import pty
import sys
import time

parser = argparse.ArgumentParser()
parser.add_argument('-a', dest='append', action='store_true')
parser.add_argument('-p', dest='use_python', action='store_true')
parser.add_argument('filename', nargs='?', default='typescript')
options = parser.parse_args()

shell = sys.executable if options.use_python else os.environ.get('SHELL', 'sh')
filename = options.filename
mode = 'ab' if options.append else 'wb'

with open(filename, mode) as script:
    def read(fd):
        data =, 1024)
        return data

    print('Script started, file is', filename)
    script.write(('Script started on %s\n' % time.asctime()).encode())

    pty.spawn(shell, read)

    script.write(('Script done on %s\n' % time.asctime()).encode())
    print('Script done, file is', filename)
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