Upgrading from V3

Version 4 of yq is quite different from previous versions (and I apologise for that) - however it will be very familiar if you have used jq before as it now uses a similar syntax. Most commands that you could do in v3 are longer in v4 as a result of having a more expressive syntax language.

Note that v4 by default now:

  • prints all documents of a yaml file.

  • prints in color (when outputting to a terminal).

  • document separators are printed out by default

How to do v3 things in v4:

In v3 yq had seperate commands for reading/writing/deleting and more. In v4 all these have been embedded into a single expression you specify to either the eval command (which runs the expression against each yaml document for each file given in sequence) or the eval-all command, which reads all documents of all files, and runs the given expression once.

Many flags from v3 have been put into the expression language, for instance stripComments allowing you to specify which nodes to strip comments from instead of only being able to apply the flag to the entire document.

Lets have a look at the commands for the most common tasks:


yq r sample.yaml 'a.b.c'


yq '.a.b.c' sample.yaml

Reading with default value


yq r sample.yaml --defaultValue frog path.not.there

v4: (use the alternative operator)

yq '.path.not.there // "frog"' sample.yaml

Finding nodes


yq r sample.yaml 'a.(b.d==cat).f'


yq '.a | select(.b.d == "cat") | .f' sample.yaml

Recursively match nodes


yq r sample.yaml 'thing.**.name'


yq '.thing | .. | select(has("name"))' sample.yaml

Multiple documents


yq r -d1 sample.yaml 'b.c'

v4 (via the document index operator):

yq 'select(documentIndex == 1) | .b.c' sample.yml

Updating / writing documents


yq w sample.yaml 'a.b.c' fred


yq '.a.b.c = "fred"' sample.yaml

Deleting documents


yq d sample.yaml 'a.b.c'


yq 'del(.a.b.c)' sample.yaml

Merging documents

Like jq, merge is done via the multiply operator. In yq, the merge operator can take extra options to modify how it works.

For v3 compatability, use the n option to only merge in new fields.

yq '. *n load("file2.yaml")' file1.yaml

See the multiply documentation for more example and options.

Prefix yaml

Use the Create / Collect Into Object operator to create a new object with the desired prefix.


yq p data1.yaml c.d


yq '{"c": {"d": . }}' data1.yml

Create new yaml documents

Note that in v4 you can no longer run expressions against an empty file to populate it - because the file is empty, there are no matches for yq to run through the expression pipeline - for what it's worth, this is what jq does as well. Instead use the --null-input/-n flag and pipe out the results to the file you want directly (see example below).


yq n b.c cat


yq -n '.b.c = "cat"'

Validate documents


yq validate some.file


yq 'true' some.file > /dev/null

Note that passing 'true' as the expression saves having to reencode the yaml (only to pipe it to stdout). In v4 you can also do a slightly more sophisticated validation and assert the tag on the root level, so you can ensure the yaml file is a map or array at the top level:

yq --exit-status 'tag == "!!map" or tag== "!!seq"' some.file > /dev/null

Comparing yaml files


yq compare --prettyPrint file1.yml file2.yml 


In v4 there is no built in compare command, instead it relies on using diff. The downside is longer syntax, the upside is that you can use the full power of diff.

diff <(yq -P file1.yml) <(yq -P file2.yml)

Script files

v3 had a script feature that let you run an array of commands specified in a file in one go. The format for this looked like

- command: update 
  path: a.key1
  value: things
- command: delete
  path: a.ab.key2

V4 doesn't have a similar feature, however the fact that you can run multiple operations in a single expression makes it easier to come up with a shell script that does the same thing:


yq '
  .a.key1 = "things" |
' ./examples/data1.yaml

Some new things you can do in v4:

Construct dynamic yaml maps and arrays based on input yaml

Using the union operator, you can run multiple updates in one go and read multiple paths in one go

Fine grain merging of maps using the multiply operator

Read and and control yaml metadata better (e.g. tags, paths, document indexes, anchors and aliases, comments).

Work with multiple files (not just for merge)

The underlying expression language is much more powerful than v3 so expect to see more features soon!

Last updated