Automate Jenkins with the CLI or the REST API

Last updated: 10-Oct-2015

Jenkins is used a lot to automate your build process and make it a real continuous integration process. But you can even take it a step further and automate the configuration of Jenkins itself.
In this short instruction I will show two ways to do this: the CLI and the REST API. With these capabilities you can for example write programs to create, backup, restore, start and view Jenkins jobs.

Download the Try-it-out-yourself code to provision an Ubuntu VM with Jenkins installed. This way you can immediately try the examples below.

The Jenkins CLI is distributed inside the jenkins.war, but you have to download it before you can use it. Suppose your Jenkins url is: http://localhost:8080/jenkins Then the CLI can be downloaded like this:

wget http://localhost:8080/jenkins/jnlpJars/jenkins-cli.jar

Note In the remainder of this document I assume the Jenkins url is http://localhost:8080/jenkins. You should of course change this to the url you use for your Jenkins instance.
Example: in the try-it-out-yourself VM the correct command is:
You can always check the correct address of the CLI by typing:
http://localhost:8080/jenkins/cli in your browser.

I will first show a few basic examples.

A list of all CLI functions:
Note: For the first example I also include the command for the try-it-out-yourself VM.

$ java -jar jenkins-cli.jar -s  http://localhost:8080/jenkins help
$ java -jar jenkins-cli.jar -s help    

Login to the Jenkins system:

$ java -jar jenkins-cli.jar -s  http://localhost:8080/jenkins  \ 
       login --username someuser --password secret   

A list of all jobs:

$ java -jar jenkins-cli.jar -s  http://localhost:8080/jenkins list-jobs    

Copy an existing job named test to a new job named test2:

$ java -jar jenkins-cli.jar -s  http://localhost:8080/jenkins copy-job test test2    

and build that new job:

$ java -jar jenkins-cli.jar -s  http://localhost:8080/jenkins build test2    

View the console output of the last run of this job:

$ java -jar jenkins-cli.jar -s  http://localhost:8080/jenkins  console test2    

More instructions can be found inside your Jenkins. Just type the following in your browser:
http://localhost:8080/jenkins/cli and you’ll find instructions on how to use the CLI.

If you haven’t set up public key authentication you will get a warning every time you execute a command. This can easily be solved. First read how to set up an ssh-key on:
Then in your browser go to:
Replace myuserid for the userid you use in Jenkins. Copy the ssh-key you generated in Linux in the appropriate field in Jenkins.

Ok with that solved, let’s look at a couple more examples.

Backup (save) a job named test2 definition in an XML file named config.xml:

$ java -jar jenkins-cli.jar -s  http://localhost:8080/jenkins  get-job test2 > config.xml    

Restore a saved job to a job named test3 from an XML file named config.xml:

$ java -jar jenkins-cli.jar -s  http://localhost:8080/jenkins \
        create-job test3 < config.xml    

Installing a plugin:

$ java -jar jenkins-cli.jar -s  http://localhost:8080/jenkins install-plugin \  -restart    

How to use the CLI in a program (bash script)

Now we can use this knowledge to write programs that automatically configure and run Jenkins. I will show a simple bash script that will back up all your jobs in xml files. It first dumps the names of all jobs in a text file, and then loops through that file to back up the jobs configurations.


# Sample bash script to backup Jenkins jobs.

java -jar jenkins-cli.jar -s http://localhost:8080/jenkins/ \
      list-jobs > jobs.txt

while read p; do
    echo $NUMBER " " $p
    java -jar jenkins-cli.jar -s http://localhost:8080/jenkins/ 
	      get-job "$p" > "$FILENAME" ;
    (( NUMBER++ ))
done < jobs.txt

exit 0    

The Jenkins REST API

It is also possible to program against a REST API of Jenkins (also called Remote Access API). This API comes in three flavours: XML, JSON and Python. What does that mean? You can try it in your browser by entering the following url’s.
From your terminal you can get the same result by adding a curl command before these url’s.

In your browser you can type http://localhost:8080/jenkins/api to get more info on this API. For some actions you need to specify a personal secret TOKEN to identify yourself. This token can be found under: http://localhost:8080/jenkins/user/myuserid/configure.

Sounds difficult? Let’s look a some examples.

Write the config file of job test2 and save it in a new config file named configtst2.xml:

$ curl "http://localhost:8080/jenkins/job/test2/config.xml" > configtst2.xml   

Create a new job named test6 from a saved config.xml file:

$ curl -X POST -H "Content-Type:application/xml" -d @config.xml \  

Trigger a build job:

$ curl -X POST http://localhost:8080/jenkins/job/test2/build \ 
--data token=0123456789abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz    

Using wget
Data from Jenkins can also be downloaded with wget. For example: You want to save the console output from a specific job. In this example the job is called test2 and we want the output of the 4th build.

$  wget "http://localhost:8080/jenkins/job/test2/4/consoleText"