Set up steps

This tutorial shows you how to create and use steps in your pipelines.

Steps are reusable and composable pieces of a job. Each step defines structured inputs and outputs that can be consumed by other steps. You can configure steps in local files, GitLab.com repositories, or any other Git source.

In this tutorial, use the GitLab CLI (glab) to:

  1. Create a step that outputs “hello world”.
  2. Configure a pipeline to use the step.
  3. Add multiple steps to a job.
  4. Use a remote step to echo all the outputs.

Before you begin

To complete this tutorial, you must install GitLab CLI (glab) and be signed in.

Create a step

First, create a step with:

  • An exec type.
  • A command that’s started by the executive API of the system.
  1. Create a GitLab project named zero-to-steps in your namespace:

     glab project create zero-to-steps
    
  2. Go to the root of the project repository:

    cd zero-to-steps
    
  3. Create a step.yml file.

     touch step.yml
    
  4. Use a text editor to add a specification to the step.yml:

    spec:
      inputs:
        who:
          default: world
    
    • spec has one input called who.
    • The input who is optional because there is a default value.
  5. To add an implementation to the step.yml, add a second YAML document after spec, with the exec key:

     spec:
       inputs:
         who:
           default: world
     ---
     exec:
       command:
         - bash
         - -c
         - "echo hello ${{ inputs.who }}"
    

The triple em dash (---) separates the file into two YAML documents:

  • The first document is the specification, like a function signature.
  • The second document is the implementation, like a function body.

The bash and -c arguments start a Bash shell and take the script input from the command line arguments. In addition to shell scripts, you can use command to execute programs like docker or terraform.

The "echo hello ${{ input.name }}" argument includes an expression inside ${{ and }}. Expressions are evaluated at the last possible moment and have access to the current execution context. This expression accesses inputs and reads the value of who:

  • If who is provided by the caller, that value is substituted for the expression.
  • If who is omitted, then the default world is substituted for the expression instead.

Configure a pipeline to use the step

  1. In the root of the repository, create a .gitlab-ci.yml file:

    touch .gitlab-ci.yml
    
  2. In the .gitlab-ci.yml, add the following job:

     hello-world:
       variables:
         STEPS:
           expand: false
           value: |
             - name: hello_world
               step: .
       image: registry.gitlab.com/gitlab-org/step-runner:v0
       script:
         - /step-runner ci
    
    • The steps are given in an environment variable called STEPS. STEPS is a list of step invocations.
      • Each invocation is given a name so you can reference the outputs in later steps.
      • Each invocations specifies a step to run. A local reference (.) points to the root of the repository.
    • The job script invokes step-runner ci which is in the step-runner:v0 image.

    For an example of how this code should look in your repository, see this example.

  3. Commit both files and push the project repository. This triggers a pipeline that runs the job:

     git add .
     git commit -m 'Part 1 complete'
     git push --set-upstream origin master
     glab ci status
    
  4. Follow the job under “View Logs” until the pipeline completes. Here’s an example of a successful job:

    $ /step-runner ci
    hello world
    trace written to step-results.json
    Cleaning up project directory and file based variables
    Job succeeded
    
note
Usage of an environment variable is a temporary work-around until the run keyword is implemented. See the run keyword epic.

You’ve now created and used your first step!

Add multiple steps to a job

You can have more than one step in a job.

  1. In the .gitlab-ci.yml file, add another step called hello_steps to your job:

    hello-world:
      variables:
        STEPS:
          expand: false
          value: |
            - name: hello_world
              step: .
            - name: hello_steps
              step: .
              inputs:
                who: gitlab steps
      image: registry.gitlab.com/gitlab-org/step-runner:v0
      script:
        - /step-runner ci
    

    This hello_steps step provides a non-default input who of gitlab steps.

    For an example of how this code should look in your repository, see this example.

  2. Commit and push the changes:

    git commit -a -m 'Added another step'
    git push
    glab ci status
    
  3. In the terminal, select View Logs and follow the pipeline until it completes. Here’s an example of a successful output:

    $ /step-runner ci
    hello world
    hello gitlab steps
    trace written to step-results.json
    Cleaning up project directory and file based variables
    Job succeeded
    

Refactor your step

To refactor your steps, move them from the .gitlab-ci.yml to a dedicated file: To refactor your steps by moving them from CI Config into a dedicated file:

  1. Move the first step you created to a directory called hello:

    mkdir hello
    mv step.yml hello/
    
  2. Create a new step at the root of the repository.

    touch step.yml
    
  3. Add the following configuration to the new step.yml:

    spec: {}
    ---
    steps:
      - name: hello_world
        step: ./hello
      - name: hello_steps
        step: ./hello
        inputs:
          who: gitlab steps
    

    This new step has no inputs, so the spec is empty ({}). It is a steps type, which has the same syntax as steps in .gitlab-ci.yml. However, the local reference now points to your step in the hello directory.

  4. To use the new step, modify .gitlab-ci.yml:

    hello-world:
      variables:
         STEPS:
           expand: false
           value: |
             - name: hello_everybody
               step: .
      image: registry.gitlab.com/gitlab-org/step-runner:v0
      script:
        - /step-runner ci
    

    Now your job invokes only the new step with no inputs. You’ve refactored the details of the job into a separate file.

    For an example of how this code should look in your repository, see this example.

  5. Commit and push the changes:

    git add .
    git commit -m 'Refactored step config'
    git push
    glab ci status
    
  6. In the terminal, select View Logs.
  7. To verify that the refactored step performs the same function as the step you first created, view the log output. The log output should match the output of the step you created previously. Here’s an example:

    $ /step-runner ci
    hello world
    hello gitlab steps
    trace written to step-results.json
    Cleaning up project directory and file based variables
    Job succeeded
    

Add an output to the step

Add an output to your hello step.

  1. In hello/step.yml, add an outputs structure to the spec:

    spec:
      inputs:
        who:
          default: world
      outputs:
        greeting: {}
    ---
    exec:
      command:
        - bash
        - -c
        - "echo greeting=hello ${{ inputs.who }} | tee ${{ output_file }}"
    
    • In this spec, you’ve defined a single output greeting without a default. Because there is no default, the output greeting is required.
    • Outputs are written to a file ${{ output_file }} (provided at run time) in the form key=value.
    • This step runs echo greeting=hello ${{ inputs.name }} and sends the output to the logs and the output file (tee ${{ output_file }}).
  2. In step.yml, add an output to the step:

    spec:
      outputs:
        all_greetings: {}
    ---
    steps:
      - name: hello_world
        step: ./hello
      - name: hello_steps
        step: ./hello
        inputs:
          who: gitlab steps
    outputs:
      all_greetings: "${{ steps.hello_world.outputs.greeting }} and ${{ steps.hello_steps.outputs.greeting }}"
    

You’ve now added an output to this step called all_greetings.

This output shows the use of a new expression syntax: ${{ steps.hello_world.outputs.greeting }}. This expression reads the outputs of the two sub-steps, hello_world and hello_steps. Both sub-step outputs are concatenated into a single string output.

Use a remote step

Before you commit and run your code, add another step to your job to see the final all_greetings output of your main step.yml.

This step invocation references a remote step named echo-step. The echo step takes a single input echo, prints it to the logs, and outputs it as echo.

  1. Edit the .gitlab-ci.yml:

    hello-world:
      variables:
        STEPS:
          expand: false
          value: |
            - name: hello_everybody
              step: .
            - name: all_my_greetings
              step: gitlab.com/gitlab-org/ci-cd/runner-tools/echo-step@master
              inputs:
                echo: "all my greetings say ${{ steps.hello_everybody.outputs.all_greetings }}"
      image: registry.gitlab.com/gitlab-org/step-runner:v0
      script:
        - /step-runner ci
    

    For an example of how this code should look in your repository, see this example.

  2. Commit and push the changes:

    git commit -a -m 'Added outputs'
    git push
    glab ci status
    
  3. Follow the job under “View Logs” until the pipeline completes completes. Here’s an example of a successful output:

    $ /step-runner ci
    greeting=hello world
    greeting=hello gitlab steps
    echo=all my greetings say hello world and hello gitlab steps
    trace written to step-results.json
    Cleaning up project directory and file based variables
    Job succeeded
    

That’s it! You’ve just created and implemented steps in your pipeline. For more information about the syntax for steps, see CI/CD Steps.