Tips On Improving kubectl Productivity

kubectl is CLI tool to control Kubernetes clusters. As we start using kubectl to interact with mutliple clusters, we end up running lengthy commands and even running multiple commands for simple tasks like running a shell in a container.

In this article, lets learn few tips to improve our productivity when using kubectl.


Aliases in general improve the productivity when using a shell.

kubectl provides shortcuts for commands. For example,

# instead of running full command
$ kubectl get services

# we can use short hand version
$ kubectl get svc

It also provides completion for commands.

# enable completion for zsh
$ source <(kubectl completion zsh)

# type `kubectl ` and hit `<TAB>` will show possible options
$ kubectl
annotate       attach         cluster-info
api-resources  auth           completion
api-versions   autoscale      config
apply          certificate    convert

# type `kubectl g`, and hit `<TAB>` will show possible options
$ kubectl get

Even though completions are helpful, setting up up aliases for most commanly used commands will save a lot of time.

alias k='kubectl'

alias kdp='kubectl describe pod'
alias kgp='kubectl get pods'
alias kgpa='kubectl get pods --all-namespaces'
alias ket='kubectl exec -it'
alias wkgp='watch -n1 kubectl getp pods'

alias kga='kubectl get all'
alias kgaa='kubectl get all --all-namespaces'

alias kaf='kubectl apply -f'

alias kcgc='kubectl config get-contexts'
alias kccc='kubectl config current-context'

If you don't write your own aliases, there is kubectl-aliases which provides exhuastive list of aliases. We can source this file in rc file and start using them.

Use Functions

Even though aliases help us to run lengthy commands with an alias, there are times where we have to run multiple commands to get things done for a single task.

For example, to view kubenetes dashboard, we have to get the token, start proxy server and then open the url in browser. We can write a simple function as shown below to do all of that.

kp() {
    kubectl -n kubernetes-dashboard describe secret $(kubectl -n kubernetes-dashboard get secret | grep admin-user | awk '{print $1}') | grep 'token:' | awk '{print $2}' | pbcopy
    open http://localhost:8001/api/v1/namespaces/kubernetes-dashboard/services/https:kubernetes-dashboard:/proxy/
    kubectl proxy

Now from the shell, when we run kp, it function will copy the token to clipboard, open kubernetes dashboard in browser and will start the proxy server.

Use Labels

To describe a pod or tail logs from a pod, we can use pod names.

$ kubectl get pods
NAME                             READY   STATUS
hello-world-79d794c659-tpfv2     1/1     Running

$ kubectl describe pod hello-world-79d794c659-tpfv2

$ kubectl logs -f pod/hello-world-79d794c659-tpfv2

When the app gets updated, the name of pod also updates. If your shell has auto completion feature, it will autocomplete to previous name.

So, instead of using pod name, we can use pod labels as mentioned below.

$ kubectl describe pod -l=hello-world

$ kubectl logs -f -l=pod/hello-world

We run the command once and next time shell will show autocomplete and we can use that directly.

Kubectl Tools

k8s has a good ecosystem and the following packages are aimed to make certain k8s tasks easier.

kubectl-debug - Debug pod by a new container with all troubleshooting tools pre-installed.

kube-forwarder - Easy to use port forwarding manager.

stern - Multi pod and container log tailing.

kubectx - Quick way to switch between clusters and namespaces.

kubebox - Terminal and Web console for Kubernetes.

k9s - Interactive terminal UI.

kui - Hybrid CLI/UI tool for k8s.

click - Interactive controller for k8s.

lens - Stand alone corss platform k8s IDE.


In this article we have seen some useful methods as well as some tools to improve productivity with kubectl. If you spend a lot of time interacting with kubernetes cluster, it is important to notice your workflows and find better tools or ways to improve productivity.