Perforce 2008.2 P4 User's Guide
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Chapter 3
Issuing P4 Commands

This chapter provides basic information about p4 commands, including command-line syntax, arguments, and flags. For full details about command syntax, refer to the Perforce Command Reference.

Certain commands require administrator or superuser permission. For details, consult the Perforce System Administrator's Guide

Command-line syntax

The basic syntax for commands is as follows:

p4 [global options] command [command-specific flags] [command arguments] The following flags can be used with all p4 commands.

Global options
Description and Example

-c clientname

Specifies the client workspace associated with the command. Overrides P4CLIENT.

p4 -c bruno_ws edit //depot/dev/main/jam/Jambase

-d directory

Specifies the current directory, overriding the environment variable PWD.

p4 -d ~c:\bruno_ws\dev\main\jam\Jambase Jamfile


Format all output as marshaled Python dictionary objects (for scripting with Python).

p4 -G info

-H host

Specifies the hostname of the client workstation, overriding P4HOST.

p4 -H deneb print //depot/dev/main/jam/Jambase

-p server

Specifies the Perforce server's host and port number, overriding P4PORT.

p4 -p deneb:1818 clients

-P password

Supplies a Perforce password, overriding P4PASSWD. Usually used in combination with the -u username flag.

p4 -u earl -P secretpassword job


Prepend a tag to each line of output (for scripting purposes).

p4 -s info

-u username

Specifies a Perforce user, overriding P4USER.

p4 -u bill user

-x filename

Read arguments, one per line, from the specified file. To read arguments from standard input, specify "-x -".

p4 -x myargs.txt


Displays the version of the p4 executable.

To display the flags for a specific command, issue the p4 help command. For example:

p4 help add

    add -- Open a new file to add it to the depot

    p4 add [ -c changelist# ] [ -t filetype ] file ...

        Open a new file for adding to the depot. If the file exists
        on the client it is read to determine if it is text or binary.
        If it does not exist it is assumed to be text. The file must
        either not exist in the depot, or it must be deleted at the
        current head revision. Files may be deleted and re-added.

For the full list of global options, commands, and command-specific flags, see the Perforce Command Reference.

Specifying filenames on the command line

Much of your everyday use of Perforce consists of managing files. You can specify filenames in p4 commands as follows:

Filenames can be specified using an absolute path (for example, c:\bruno_ws\dev\main\jam\fileos2.c) or a path that is relative to the current directory (for example, .\jam\fileos2.c).

Relative components (. or ..) cannot be specified following fixed components. For example, mysub/mydir/./here/file.c is invalid, because the dot (.) follows the fixed mysub/mydir components.

Perforce wildcards

For commands that operate on sets of files, Perforce supports two wildcards.



Matches anything except slashes. Matches only within a single directory. Case sensitivity depends on your server platform


Matches anything including slashes. Matches recursively (everything in and below the specified directory).

Perforce wildcards can be used with local or Perforce syntax, as in the following examples.



Files in the current directory starting with J


All files called help in current subdirectories


All files under the current directory and its subdirectories


All files under the current directory and its subdirectories, that end in .c


All files under /usr/bruno


All files in the workspace or depot that is named bruno_ws


All files in the depot


All files in all depots

The * wildcard is expanded locally by the operating system before the command is sent to the server. To prevent the local operating system from expanding the * wildcard, enclose it in quotes or precede it with a backslash.


The "..." wildcard cannot be used with the p4 add command. The "..." wildcard is expanded by the Perforce server, and, because the server cannot determine which files are being added, it can't expand the wildcard. The * wildcard can be used with p4 add, because it is expanded by the operating system shell and not by the Perforce Server.

Restrictions on filenames and identifiers

Spaces in filenames, pathnames, and identifiers

Use quotation marks to enclose files or directories that contain spaces. For example:

If you specify spaces in names for other Perforce objects, such as branch names, client names, label names, and so on, the spaces are automatically converted to underscores by the Perforce server.

Length limitations

Names assigned to Perforce objects such as branches, client workspaces, and so on, cannot exceed 1024 characters.

Reserved characters

By default, the following reserved characters are not allowed in Perforce identifiers or names of files managed by Perforce.

Reserved Character


File revision specifier for date, label name, or changelist number


File revision numbers




Wildcard (recursive)

%%1 - %%9

Wildcard (positional)


Separator for pathname components

These characters have conflicting and secondary uses. Conflicts include the following:

To specify these characters in filenames or paths, use the ASCII expression of the character's hexadecimal value, as shown in the following table.










Specify the filename literally when you add it; then use the ASCII expansion to refer to it thereafter. For example, to add a file called [email protected], issue the following command:

When you submit the changelist, the characters are automatically expanded and appear in the change submission form as follows:

After you submit the changelist with the file's addition, you must use the ASCII expansion to sync the file to your workspace or to edit it within your workspace. For example:

Filenames containing extended (non-ASCII) characters

Non-ASCII characters are allowed in filenames and Perforce identifiers, but entering them from the command line might require platform-specific solutions. If you are using Perforce in unicode mode, all users must have P4CHARSET set properly. For details about setting P4CHARSET, see the Perforce Command Reference and the Internationalization Notes.

In international environments, use a common code page or locale setting to ensure that all filenames are displayed consistently across all machines in your organization. To set the code page or locale:

Specifying file revisions

Each time you submit a file to the depot, its revision number is incremented. To specify revisions prior to the most recent, use the # revision specifier to specify a revision number, or @ to specify a date, changelist, client workspace, or label corresponding to the version of the file you are working on. Revision specifications can be used to limit the effect of a command to specified file revisions.


Some operating system shells treat the Perforce revision character # as a comment character if it starts a word. If your shell is one of these, escape the # when you use it in p4 commands.

The following table describes the various ways you can specify file revisions

Revision needed
Syntax and example

Revision number



p4 sync //depot/dev/main/jam/Jambase#3

Refers to revision 3 of file Jambase

The revision submitted as of a specified changelist



p4 sync //depot/dev/main/jam/[email protected]

Refers to the version of Jambase when changelist 126 was submitted, even if it was not part of the change.

p4 sync //depot/[email protected]

Refers to the state of the entire depot at changelist 126 (numbered changelists are explained in "Managing changelists" on page 54).

The revision in a specified label



p4 sync //depot/dev/main/jam/[email protected]

The revision of Jambase in the label called beta. For details about labels, refer to "Using labels" on page 78.

The revision last synced to a specified client workspace



p4 sync //depot/dev/main/jam/[email protected]_ws

The revision of Jambase last synced to client workspace bruno_ws

Remove the file



p4 sync //depot/dev/main/jam/Jambase#none

Removes Jambase from the client workspace.

The most recent version of the file



p4 sync //depot/dev/main/jam/Jambase#head

Same as p4 sync //depot/dev/main/jam/Jambase

(If you omit the revision specifier, the head revision is synced.)

The revision last synced to your workspace



p4 files //depot/dev/main/jam/Jambase#have

The head revision of the file in the depot on the specified date



p4 sync //depot/dev/main/jam/[email protected]/05/18

The head revision of Jambase as of midnight May 18, 2005.

The head revision of the file in the depot on the specified date at the specified time



p4 sync //depot/dev/main/jam/[email protected]"2005/05/18"

Specify dates in the format YYYY/MM/DD. Specify time in the format HH:MM:SS using the 24-hour clock. Time defaults to 00:00:00

Separate the date and the time by a single space or a colon. (If you use a space to separate the date and time, you must also enclose the entire date-time specification in double quotes.)


Date and time specifications

Date and time specifications are obtained from the time zone of the Perforce server. To display the date, time, offset from GMT, and time zone in effect at your Perforce server, issue the p4 info command. The Perforce server stores times as the number of seconds since 00:00:00 GMT Jan. 1, 1970), so if you move your server across time zones, the times stored on the server are correctly reported in the new time zone.

Revision ranges

Some commands can operate on a range of file revisions. To specify a revision range, specify the start and end revisions separated by a comma, for example, #3,4.

The commands that accept revision range specifications are:

For the preceding commands:

Reporting commands

The following table lists some useful reporting commands.

To display
Use this command

A list of p4 commands with a brief description

p4 help commands

Detailed help about a specific command

p4 help command

Command line flags common to all Perforce commands

p4 help usage

Details about Perforce view syntax

p4 help views

All the arguments that can be specified for the p4 help command

p4 help

The Perforce settings configured for your client machine

p4 info

The file revisions in the client workspace

p4 have

Preview the results of a p4 sync (to see which files would be transferred)

p4 sync -n

Preview the results of a p4 delete (to see which files would be marked for deletion)

p4 delete -n files

Using Perforce forms

Some Perforce commands, for example p4 client and p4 submit, use a text editor to display a form into which you enter the information that is required to complete the command (for example, a description of the changes you are submitting). After you change the form, save it, and exit the editor, Perforce parses the form and uses it to complete the command. (To configure the text editor that is used to display and edit Perforce forms, set P4EDITOR.)

When you enter information into a Perforce form, observe the following rules:

Some field names, such as the Client: field in the p4 client form, require a single value; other fields, such as Description:, take a block of text; and others, like View:, take a list of lines.

Certain values, like Client: in the client workspace form, cannot be changed. Other fields, like Description: in p4 submit, must be changed. If you don't change a field that needs to be changed, or vice versa, Perforce displays an error. For details about which fields can be modified, see the Perforce Command Reference or use p4 help command.

Perforce 2008.2 P4 User's Guide
<< Previous Chapter
Configuring P4
Table of Contents
Perforce on the Web
Next Chapter >>
Managing Files and Changelists
Please send comments and questions about this manual to [email protected].
Copyright 2005-2008 Perforce Software. All rights reserved.
Last updated: 12/05/08