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cmctl is a CLI tool that can help you to manage cert-manager resources inside your cluster.

While also available as a kubectl plugin, it is recommended to use as a stand alone binary as this allows the use of command auto-completion.


You need the cmctl.tar.gz file for the platform you're using, these can be found on our GitHub releases page. In order to use cmctl you need its binary to be accessible under the name cmctl in your $PATH. Run the following commands to set up the CLI. Replace OS and ARCH with your systems equivalents:

OS=$(go env GOOS); ARCH=$(go env GOARCH); curl -fsSL -o cmctl.tar.gz$OS-$ARCH.tar.gz
tar xzf cmctl.tar.gz
sudo mv cmctl /usr/local/bin

You can run cmctl help to test the CLI is set up properly:

$ cmctl help
cmctl is a CLI tool manage and configure cert-manager resources for Kubernetes
Usage: cmctl [command]
Available Commands:
approve Approve a CertificateRequest
check Check cert-manager components
completion Generate completion scripts for the cert-manager CLI
convert Convert cert-manager config files between different API versions
create Create cert-manager resources
deny Deny a CertificateRequest
experimental Interact with experimental features
help Help about any command
inspect Get details on certificate related resources
renew Mark a Certificate for manual renewal
status Get details on current status of cert-manager resources
upgrade Tools that assist in upgrading cert-manager
version Print the cert-manager CLI version and the deployed cert-manager version
-h, --help help for cmctl
--log-flush-frequency duration Maximum number of seconds between log flushes (default 5s)
Use "cmctl [command] --help" for more information about a command.


Approve and Deny CertificateRequests

CertificateRequests can be approved or denied using their respective cmctl commands:

Note: The internal cert-manager approver may automatically approve all CertificateRequests unless disabled with the flag on the cert-manager-controller --controllers=*,-certificaterequests-approver

$ cmctl approve -n istio-system mesh-ca --reason "pki-team" --message "this certificate is valid"
Approved CertificateRequest 'istio-system/mesh-ca'
$ cmctl deny -n my-app my-app --reason "" --message "violates policy"
Denied CertificateRequest 'my-app/my-app'


cmctl convert can be used to convert cert-manager manifest files between different API versions. Both YAML and JSON formats are accepted. The command either takes a file name, directory path, or a URL as input. The contents is converted into the format of the latest API version known to cert-manager, or the one specified by --output-version flag.

The default output will be printed to stdout in YAML format. One can use the option -o to change the output destination.

For example, this will output cert.yaml in the latest API version:

cmctl convert -f cert.yaml


cmctl create can be used to create cert-manager resources manually. Sub-commands are available to create different resources:


To create a cert-manager CertificateRequest, use cmctl create certificaterequest. The command takes in the name of the CertificateRequest to be created, and creates a new CertificateRequest resource based on the YAML manifest of a Certificate resource as specified by --from-certificate-file flag, by generating a private key locally and creating a 'certificate signing request' to be submitted to a cert-manager Issuer. The private key will be written to a local file, where the default is <name_of_cr>.key, or it can be specified using the --output-key-file flag.

If you wish to wait for the CertificateRequest to be signed and store the X.509 certificate in a file, you can set the --fetch-certificate flag. The default timeout when waiting for the issuance of the certificate is 5 minutes, but can be specified with the --timeout flag. The default name of the file storing the X.509 certificate is <name_of_cr>.crt, you can use the --output-certificate-file flag to specify otherwise.

Note that the private key and the X.509 certificate are both written to file, and are not stored inside Kubernetes.

For example this will create a CertificateRequest resource with the name "my-cr" based on the cert-manager Certificate described in my-certificate.yaml while storing the private key and X.509 certificate in my-cr.key and my-cr.crt respectively.

cmctl create certificaterequest my-cr --from-certificate-file my-certificate.yaml --fetch-certificate --timeout 20m


cmctl allows you to manually trigger a renewal of a specific certificate. This can be done either one certificate at a time, using label selectors (-l app=example), or with the --all flag:

For example, you can renew the certificate example-com-tls:

$ kubectl get certificate
example-com-tls True example-com-tls 1d
$ cmctl renew example-com-tls
Manually triggered issuance of Certificate default/example-com-tls
$ kubectl get certificaterequest
example-com-tls-tls-8rbv2 False 10s

You can also renew all certificates in a given namespace:

$ cmctl renew --namespace=app --all

The renew command allows several options to be specified:

  • --all renew all Certificates in the given Namespace, or all namespaces when combined with --all-namespaces
  • -A or --all-namespaces mark Certificates across namespaces for renewal
  • -l --selector allows set a label query to filter on as well as kubectl like global flags like --context and --namespace.

Status Certificate

cmctl status certificate outputs the details of the current status of a Certificate resource and related resources like CertificateRequest, Secret, Issuer, as well as Order and Challenges if it is a ACME Certificate. The command outputs information about the resources, including Conditions, Events and resource specific fields like Key Usages and Extended Key Usages of the Secret or Authorizations of the Order. This will be helpful for troubleshooting a Certificate.

The command takes in one argument specifying the name of the Certificate resource and the namespace can be specified as usual with the -n or --namespace flag.

This example queries the status of the Certificate named my-certificate in namespace my-namespace.

cmctl status certificate my-certificate -n my-namespace


cmctl supports auto-completion for both subcommands as well as suggestions for runtime objects.

$ cmctl approve -n <TAB> <TAB>
default kube-node-lease kube-public kube-system local-path-storage

Completion can be installed for your environment by following the instructions for the shell you are using. It currently supports bash, fish, zsh, and powershell.

$ cmctl completion help


cmctl x has experimental sub-commands for operations which are currently under evaluation to be included into cert-manager proper. The behavior and interface of these commands are subject to change or removal in future releases.


cmctl x create can be used to create cert-manager resources manually. Sub-commands are available to create different resources:


To create a CertificateSigningRequest, use

cmctl x create csr`

This command takes the name of the CertificateSigningRequest to be created, as well as a file containing a Certificate manifest (-f, --from-certificate-file). This command will generate a private key, based on the options of the Certificate, and write it to the local file <name>.key, or specified by -k, --output-key-file.

$ cmctl x create csr -f my-cert.yaml my-req

cert-manager will not automatically approve CertificateSigningRequests. If you are not running a custom approver in your cluster, you will likely need to manually approve the CertificateSigningRequest:

$ kubectl certificate approve <name>

This command can also wait for the CertificateSigningRequest to be signed using the flag -w, --fetch-certificate. Once signed it will write the resulting signed certificate to the local file <name>.crt, or specified by -c, --output-certificate-file.

$ cmctl x create csr -f my-cert.yaml my-req -w


Tools that assist in upgrading cert-manager

$ cmctl upgrade --help
Migrate API version

This command can be used to prepare a cert-manager installation that was created before cert-manager v1 for upgrading to a cert-manager version v1.6 or later. It ensures that any cert-manager custom resources that may have been stored in etcd at a deprecated API version get migrated to v1. See Migrating Deprecated API Resources for more context.

$ cmctl upgrade migrate-api-version --qps 5 --burst 10