Format output from the cbt CLI

This document describes how to format specific types of data stored in Bigtable rows when displayed by the cbt CLI .

Examples of formatting

Starting with version 0.12.0, the cbt CLI can format certain complex types of data stored in table rows. When you use the cbt read or cbt lookup command, the cbt CLI can "pretty print" values stored in the rows.

The following example shows data output from the cbt CLI without formatting.

  fam1:col1                                 @ 2022/03/09-11:19:45.966000
  fam1:col2                                 @ 2022/03/14-11:17:20.014000
    "{\"name\": \"Brave\", \"age\": 2}"

The following example shows data output from the cbt CLI with formatting.

  fam1:col1                                 @ 2022/03/09-11:19:45.966000
    name: "Brave"
    age: 2
  fam1:col2                                 @ 2022/03/14-11:17:20.014000
    age:     2.00
    name:   "Brave"

To format a column or column family, you must provide a YAML file that specifies the formatting for that column. When you call cbt lookup or cbt read, you pass in the path to the YAML file with the format-file argument. The following snippet shows an example of calling cbt lookup with the format-file argument supplied.

cbt lookup my-table r1 format-file=/path/to/formatting.yml

Define column data formats in YAML

The formatting YAML file must connect the column names or column family names with the data types stored within them. The following snippet shows an example of a YAML formatting file.

  - cat.proto
  - testdata/

    encoding: ProtocolBuffer
    type: Cat

    encoding: json

The following snippet shows the contents of 'cat.proto'.

syntax = "proto3";
package cats;

option go_package = "";

message Cat {
  string name = 1;
  int32 age = 2;

Looking at the example:

  • The protocol_buffer_definitions field provides a list of .proto files that can contain protocol buffer message types to use for decoding protobuf data.
  • The protocol_buffer_paths field provides a list of local paths that can contain .proto files for decoding protocol buffer types. You do not need to specify the locations of standard protocol buffer imports, such as messages in the google/protobuf package.
  • The columns field contains a list of column names with the corresponding data types for each column:

    • The protobuf column has its encoding set to "ProtocolBuffer" and its type is set to 'Cat'. The cbt CLI interprets and formats all values stored in this column as a Cat proto message type. The type must correspond to a message type defined in one of the .proto files provided for the protocol_buffer_definition field.
    • The json column has its encoding field set to "json". The cbt interprets and formats all values stored in this column as a JSON structure.

Other fields that you can provide:

  • default_encoding: This field defines a default formatting for all all columns in a table or all columns in a column family.
  • default_type: This field defines a default data type for protocol buffer, big-endian, and little-endian encoded columns.
  • families: This field defines encodings and types for all columns within a column family. You can provide a default_encoding and default_type for a column family. You can also override these encodings at the column level by providing a columns field that lists columns by name with the appropriate encoding and data types, as shown in the following snippet:

        default_encoding: BigEndian
        default_type: INT64
            encoding: PROTO
            type: tutorial.Person

Supported data types

The cbt CLI supports formatting for several complex data types. The following table lists the supported data types and strings to provide in the YAML file for each of the list types. String values are not case-sensitive.

Data type Formatting value for YAML
Hexadecimal Hex, H
Big-endian BigEndian, B
Little-endian LittleEndian, L
Protocol buffer ProtocolBuffer, P, PROTO

Table 1. Data types supported for formatting in cbt output.

  • The hexadecimal encoding is type agnostic. Data are displayed as a raw hexadecimal representation of the stored data.
  • The available types for the big-endian and little-endian encodings are int8, int16, int32, int64, uint8, uint16, uint32, uint64, float32, and float64. Stored data length must be a multiple of the type sized, in bytes. Data are displayed as scalars if the stored length matches the type size, or as arrays otherwise. Types names are not case-sensitive.
  • The types given for the protocol-buffer encoding must match message types defined in provided protocol-buffer definition files. The types are not case-sensitive. If no type is specified, it defaults to the column name for the column data being displayed.
  • The formatting values for YAML are not case-sensitive.