Transform Data

Ultimate dbt Cheat Sheet

Last Updated:

August 8, 2023

August 8, 2023


Noel Gomez

You now know what dbt (data build tool) is all about.  You are being productive, but you forgot what `dbt build` does or you forgot what the @ dbt graph operator does. This handy dbt cheat sheet has it all in one place.

dbt cheat sheet

With the advent of dbt 1.6, we updated the awesome dbt cheat sheet created originally by Bruno de Lima

We have also moved the dbt jinja sheet sheet to a dedicated post.

This reference summarizes all the dbt commands you may need as you run your dbt jobs or study for your dbt certification.

If you ever wanted to know what the difference between +model and @model is in your dbt run, you will find the answer. Whether you are trying to understand dbt graph operators or what the dbt retry command does, but this cheat sheet has you covered. Check it out below.

Primary dbt commands

These are the principal commands you will use most frequently with dbt. Not all of these will be available on dbt Cloud

dbt Command arguments

The dbt commands above have options that allow you to select and exclude models as well as deferring to another environment like production instead of building dependent models for a given run. This table shows which options are available for each dbt command

dbt selectors

By combining the arguments above like "-s" with the options below, you can tell dbt which items you want to select or exclude. This can be a specific dbt model, everything in a specific folder, or now with the latest versions of dbt, the specific version of a model you are interested in.

dbt node selectors
tag Select models that match a specified tag
source Select models that select from a specified source
path Select models/sources defined at or under a specific path.
file / fqn Used to select a model by its filename, including the file extension (.sql).
package Select models defined within the root project or an installed dbt package.
config Select models that match a specified node config.
test_type Select tests based on their type, singular or generic
test_name Select tests based on the name of the generic test that defines it.
state Select nodes by comparing them against a previous version of the same project, which is represented by a manifest. The file path of the comparison manifest must be specified via the --state flag or DBT_STATE environment variable.
exposure Select parent resources of a specified exposure.
metric Select parent resources of a specified metric.
result The result method is related to the state method described above and can be used to select resources based on their result status from a prior run.
source_status Select resource based on source freshness
group Select models defined within a group
access Selects models based on their access property.
version Selects versioned models based on their version identifier and latest version.

dbt graph operators

dbt Graph Operator provide a powerful syntax that allow you to hone in on the specific items you want dbt to process.

dbt graph operators
+ If "plus" (+) operator is placed at the front of the model selector, + will select all parents of the selected model. If placed at the end of the string, + will select all children of the selected model.
n+ With the n-plus (n+) operator you can adjust the behavior of the + operator by quantifying the number of edges to step through.
@ The "at" (@) operator is similar to +, but will also include the parents of the children of the selected model.
* The "star" (*) operator matches all models within a package or directory.

Project level dbt commands

The following commands are used less frequently and perform actions like initializing a dbt project, installing dependencies, or validating that you can connect to your database.

dbt command line (CLI) flags

The flags below immediately follow the dbt command and go before the subcommand e.g. dbt <FLAG> run

Read the official dbt documentation

dbt command line (CLI) flags (general)
-x, --fail-fast / --no-fail-fast Stop dbt execution as soon as a failure occurs.
-h, --help Shows command help documentation
--send-anonymous-usage-stats / --no-send-anonymous-usage-stats Send anonymous dbt usage statistics to dbt Labs.
-V, -v, --version Returns information about the installed dbt version
--version-check / --no-version-check Ensures or ignores that the installed dbt version matches the require-dbt-version specified in the dbt_project.yml file.
--warn-error If dbt would normally warn, instead raise an exception.
--warn-error-options WARN_ERROR_OPTIONS Allows for granular control over exactly which types of warnings are treated as errors. This argument receives a YAML string like '{"include": "all"}.
--write-json / --no-write-json Whether or not to write the manifest.json and run_results.json files to the target directory

dbt CLI flags (logging and debugging)
-d, --debug / --no-debug Display debug logging during dbt execution useful for debugging and making bug reports. Not to be confused with the dbt debug command which tests database connection.
--log-cache-events / --no-log-cache-events Enable verbose logging for relational cache events to help when debugging.
--log-format [text|debug|json|default] Specify the format of logging to the console and the log file.
--log-format-file [text|debug|json|default] Specify the format of logging to the log file by overriding the default format
--log-level [debug|info|warn|error|none] Specify the severity of events that are logged to the console and the log file.
--log-level-file [debug|info|warn|error|none] Specify the severity of events that are logged to the log file by overriding the default log level
--log-path PATH Configure the 'log-path'. Overrides 'DBT_LOG_PATH' if it is set.
--print / --no-print Outputs or hides all {{ print() }} statements within a macro call.
--printer-width INTEGER Sets the number of characters for terminal output
-q, --quiet / --no-quiet Suppress all non-error logging to stdout Does not affect {{ print() }} macro calls.
--use-colors / --no-use-colors Specify whether log output is colorized in the terminal
--use-colors-file / --no-use-colors-file Specify whether log file output is colorized

dbt CLI flags (parsing and performance)
--cache-selected-only / --no-cache-selected-only Have dbt cache or not cache metadata about all the objects in all the schemas where it might materialize resources
--partial-parse / --no-partial-parse Uses or ignores the pickle file in the target folder used to speed up dbt invocations by only reading and parsing modified objects.
--populate-cache / --no-populate-cache At start of run, use `show` or `information_schema` queries to populate a relational cache to speed up subsequent materializations
-r, --record-timing-info PATH Saves performance profiling information to a file that can be visualized with snakeviz to understand the performance of a dbt invocation
--static-parser / --no-static-parser Use or disable the static parser. (e.g. no partial parsing if enabled)
--use-experimental-parser / --no-use-experimental-parser Enable experimental parsing features.

Please contact us with any errors or suggestions.

Noel Gomez

Datacoves Co-founder | 15+ Data Platform Expert.
Solving enterprise data challenges quickly with dbt & Airflow.

Looking for an enterprise data platform?

Datacoves offers managed dbt core and Airflow and can be deployed in your private cloud.


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