Using Variables

Powerpipe is now the recommended way to run dashboards and benchmarks! Mods still work as normal in Steampipe for now, but they are deprecated and will be removed in a future release:

Variables are module level objects that allow you to pass values to your module at runtime. When running Steampipe, you can pass values on the command line or from a .spvars file, and you will be prompted for any variables that have no values.

Locals are internal, private variables used only within your mod - you cannot pass values in at runtime.

Input Variables

Defining Input Variables

Steampipe mods support input variables that are similar to terraform input variables:

You declare them with a variable block:

variable "instance_id" {
type = string
variable "mandatory_tag_keys" {
type = list(string)
description = "A list of mandatory tag keys to check for (case sensitive)."
default = ["Environment", "Owner"]

You can optionally define:

  • default - A default value. If no value is passed, the user is not prompted and the default is used.
  • type - The data type of the variable. This may be a simple type or a collection.
    • The supported type primitives are:
      • string
      • number
      • bool
    • Collections types may also be used:
      • list(<TYPE>)
      • set(<TYPE>)
      • map(<TYPE>)
      • object({<ATTR NAME> = <TYPE>, ... })
      • tuple([<TYPE>, ...])
    • The keyword any may be used to indicate that any type is acceptable
  • description - A description of the variable. This text is included when the user is prompted for a variable's value.

Using Input Variables

Variables may be referenced as var.<NAME>. Variables are often used to pass parameters to queries:

variable "instance_state" {
type = string
default = "stopped"
query "instances_in_state" {
sql = "select instance_id, instance_state from aws_ec2_instance where instance_state = $1;"
param "find_state" {
default = var.instance_state

Passing Input Variables

When running Steampipe, you can pass variables in several ways. You can pass individual variables values on the command line with one or more --var arguments:

steampipe query --var=instance_state="running"

When passing list variables, they must be enclosed in single quotes:

steampipe check all --var='mandatory_tags=["Owner","Application","Environment"]' --var='sensitive_tags=["password","key"]'

You can specify variable values in a .spvars file, using HCL syntax:

mandatory_tags = [
sensitive_tags =[

Steampipe automatically reads in the file named steampipe.spvars as well as any file ending in .auto.spvars from the working directory if they exist. You can also specify a variable file by name on the command line:

steampipe check all --var-file='tags.spvars'

You may also set variable values via environment variables. Simply prefix the steampipe variable name with SP_VAR_:

export SP_VAR_mandatory_tags='["Owner","Application", "Environment"]'

If you run Steampipe from a mod that defines input variables, and they are not set anywhere (no default, not set in a .spvars file, not set with --var argument, not set via environment variable) then Steampipe will prompt you for them before running the control/benchmark.

Steampipe loads variables in the following order, with later sources taking precedence over earlier ones:

  1. Environment variables
  2. The steampipe.spvars file, if present.
  3. Any *.auto.spvars files, in alphabetical order by filename.
  4. Any --var and --var-file options on the command line, in the order they are provided.

Passing Variables for Dependency Mods

A Steampipe mod can depend on other mods, and those dependency mods may include variables that you would like to pass. To set them, prefix the variable names with the mod alias and them set them like any other variable.

You can set them in a .spvars file:

// direct dependency vars
aws_tags.mandatory_tags = ["Owner","Application","Environment"]
azure_tags.mandatory_tags = ["Owner","Application","Environment"]

Or pass them to the command with the --var argument

steampipe dashboard --var 'aws_tags.mandatory_tags=["Owner","Application","Environment"]' --var 'azure_tags.mandatory_tags=["Owner","Application","Environment"]' --var 'gcp_labels.mandatory_labels=["Owner","Application","Environment"]'

Local Variables

Steampipe supports using local variables in a manner similar to Terraform local values. Unlike variables, locals cannot be passed in at runtime, but are useful as internal private variables.

The locals block defines and sets one or more local variables, using standard HCL assignment syntax. The locals are scoped to the mod, and a mod may contain multiple locals blocks. Locals may reference other values in the mod, including other local values.

A set of one or more local values can be declared in one or more locals blocks:

locals {
cis_v140_common_tags = {
cis = "true"
cis_version = "v1.4.0"
plugin = "aws"
locals {
cis_v140_1_common_tags = merge(local.cis_v140_common_tags, {
cis_section_id = "1"

Once a local value is declared, you can reference it in expressions as local.<NAME>.

control "cis_v140_1_1" {
tags = local.cis_v140_1_common_tags