curl ootw: -v is for verbose

(Previous entries in the curl option of the week series.)

This is one of the original 24 command line options that existed already in the first ever curl release in the spring of 1998. The -v option’s long version is --verbose.

Note that this uses the lowercase ‘v’. The uppercase -V option shows detailed version information.

So use it!

In a blog post series of curl command line options you’d think that this option would basically be unnecessary to include since it seems to basic, so obvious and of course people know of it and use it immediately to understand why curl invokes don’t behave as expected!

Time and time again the first response to users with problems is to please add –verbose to the command line. Many of those times, the problem is then figured out, understood and sorted out without any need of further help.

--verbose should be the first action to try for everyone who runs a curl command that fails unexplainably.

What verbose shows

First: there’s only one verbosity level in curl. There’s normal and there’s verbose. Pure binary; on or off. Adding more -v flags on the same line won’t bring you more details. In fact, adding more won’t change anything at all other than making your command line longer. (And yes, you have my permission to gently taunt anyone you see online who uses more than one -v with curl.)

Verbose mode shows outgoing and incoming headers (or protocol commands/responses) as well as “extra” details that we’ve deemed sensible in the code.

For example you will get to see which IP addresses curl attempts to connect to (that the host name resolved to), it will show details from the server’s TLS certificate and it will tell you what TLS cipher that was negotiated etc.

-v shows details from the protocol engine. Of course you will also see different outputs depending on what protocol that’s being used.

What verbose doesn’t show

This option is meant to help you understand the protocol parts but it doesn’t show you everything that’s going on – for example it doesn’t show you the outgoing protocol data (like the HTTP request body). If -v isn’t enough for you, then the --trace and --trace-ascii options are there for you.

If you are in the rare situation where the trace options aren’t detailed enough, you can go all-in with full SSLKEYLOGFILE mode and inspect curl’s network traffic with Wireshark.

Less verbose?

It’s not exactly “verbose level” but curl does by default for example show a progress meter and some other things. You can silence curl completely by using -s (--silent) or use the recently introduced option --no-progress-meter.


curl -v