subprocess module in Python allows you to spawn new processes, connect to their input/output/error pipes, and obtain their return codes. This module can used for launching a script and/or executable from another python script.

Below script count for 10 and then exit with status success. We will use this script for demonstrating, how to launch this script from other script.

# File :
import time
import sys

def main():
    loop_count = 0
    while True:
        print('.', end='')
        loop_count += 1
        if loop_count > 10:


if __name__ == '__main__':


Below is the syntax of run() command, *, stdin=None, input=None, stdout=None, stderr=None, capture_output=False, shell=False, cwd=None, timeout=None, check=False, encoding=None, errors=None, text=None, env=None, universal_newlines=None, **other_popen_kwargs)

It run the command described by args. Wait for command to complete, then return a CompletedProcess instance.

  • The input argument is passed to Popen.communicate() and thus to the subprocess’s stdin. If used it must be a byte sequence, or a string if encoding or errors is specified or text is true. When used, the internal Popen object is automatically created with stdin=PIPE, and the stdin argument may not be used as well.
  • If capture_output is true, stdout and stderr will be captured.
  • The timeout argument is passed to Popen.communicate(). If the timeout expires, the child process will be killed and waited for. The TimeoutExpired exception will be re-raised after the child process has terminated.
  • If check is true, and the process exits with a non-zero exit code, a CalledProcessError exception will be raised. Attributes of that exception hold the arguments, the exit code, and stdout and stderr if they were captured.
  • If encoding or errors are specified, or text is true, file objects for stdin, stdout and stderr are opened in text mode using the specified encoding and errors or the io.TextIOWrapper default. The universal_newlines argument is equivalent to text and is provided for backwards compatibility. By default, file objects are opened in binary mode.
  • If env is not None, it must be a mapping that defines the environment variables for the new process; these are used instead of the default behavior of inheriting the current process’ environment. It is passed directly to Popen.

Launch Script

Below script launch a process to execute the python script (, and wait until the process to complete.

import subprocess

p ='python', shell=True)
# or
#p =['python', ''])

print('returncode', p.returncode)

Execute Shell Command

It can also be used to executing shell commands. It gives us the flexibility to suppress the output of shell commands or chain inputs and outputs of various commands together.

import subprocess

list_files =["ls", "-l"])
print("The exit code was: %d" % list_files.returncode)

Below example shows how to pass input to the command.

import subprocess

useless_cat_call =["cat"], stdout=subprocess.PIPE, text=True, input="cat input")
print(useless_cat_call.stdout) # cat input

Using subprocess.Popen

Below is the syntax of Popen.

class subprocess.Popen(args, bufsize=- 1, executable=None, stdin=None, stdout=None, stderr=None, preexec_fn=None, close_fds=True, shell=False, cwd=None, env=None, universal_newlines=None, startupinfo=None, creationflags=0, restore_signals=True, start_new_session=False, pass_fds=(), *, group=None, extra_groups=None, user=None, umask=- 1, encoding=None, errors=None, text=None, pipesize=- 1)

Execute a child program in a new process. The arguments to Popen are as follows.

  • args should be a sequence of program arguments or else a single string or path-like object. By default, the program to execute is the first item in args if args is a sequence. If args is a string, the interpretation is platform-dependent.
  • The shell argument (which defaults to False) specifies whether to use the shell as the program to execute. If shell is True, it is recommended to pass args as a string rather than as a sequence.
  • The executable argument specifies a replacement program to execute. It is very seldom needed. When shell=False, executable replaces the program to execute specified by args.
  • stdin, stdout and stderr specify the executed program’s standard input, standard output and standard error file handles, respectively. Valid values are PIPE, DEVNULL, an existing file descriptor (a positive integer), an existing file object, and None. PIPE indicates that a new pipe to the child should be created. DEVNULL indicates that the special file os.devnull will be used. With the default settings of None, no redirection will occur; the child’s file handles will be inherited from the parent. Additionally, stderr can be STDOUT, which indicates that the stderr data from the applications should be captured into the same file handle as for stdout.

Below example launch a process to execute the python script, and does not wait for the script to complete.

import subprocess

p = subprocess.Popen(['python3', ''])
# Output
# pid 28730
# ...........END

Process Interaction

Below script is addon version of the above script. It capture output and error of the called script. It also wait for launched process to finish. Finally it displays the output and error code.

import subprocess

p = subprocess.Popen(['python3', ''], stdout=subprocess.PIPE, stderr=subprocess.PIPE)
out, err = p.communicate()

print('Output : ', out)
print('Error :', err)
print('returncode', p.returncode)

Popen.communicate(input=None, timeout=None) interact with process. It send data to stdin, read data from stdout and stderr, until end-of-file is reached. It also wait for process to terminate and set the returncode attribute. Note that if you want to send data to the process’s stdin, you need to create the Popen object with stdin=PIPE. Similarly, to get anything other than None in the result tuple, you need to give stdout=PIPE and/or stderr=PIPE too.

If the process does not terminate after timeout seconds, a TimeoutExpired exception will be raised. Catching this exception and retrying communication will not lose any output. The child process is not killed if the timeout expires, so in order to cleanup properly a well-behaved application should kill the child process and finish communication.

Changing stdout and stderr

Output and error can also be written to file as shown in below example.

with open("test.log","wb") as out, open("test-error.log","wb") as err:
    p = subprocess.Popen(['python', ''], stdout=out, stderr=err)

Run another Programming Language

We can run other programming languages with python and get the output from those files. For instance, let’s create a hello world program in C++. In order to execute the following file, you’ll need to install C++ compilers.

#include <iostream>

int main(){
    std::cout << "Hello world in C++\n" << std::endl;
    return 0;

Below script executes the above C++ file. The script first scans all the C++ files in the current working directory and executes one by one.

from glob import glob
import subprocess

# Gets files with each extension
cpp_files = glob('*.cpp')

for file in cpp_files:
    process ='g++ {file} -o out; ./out', shell=True, capture_output=True, text=True)
    output = process.stdout.strip() + '\nExecuting by Python'