» Built-in Help

You've now worked with vault write and vault read for multiple paths: the kv secrets engine with kv/ and dynamic AWS credentials with the AWS secrets engine provider at aws/. In both cases, the structure and usage of each secrets engines differed, for example the AWS backend has special paths like aws/config.

Instead of having to memorize or reference documentation constantly to determine what paths to use, Vault has a built-in help system. This help system can be accessed via the API or the command-line and generates human-readable help for any path.

» Secrets Engines Overview

This section assumes you have the AWS secrets engine enabled at aws/. If you do not, enable it before continuing:

$ vault secrets enable -path=aws aws

With the secrets engine enabled, learn about it with the vault path-help command:

$ vault path-help aws

The AWS backend dynamically generates AWS access keys for a set of
IAM policies. The AWS access keys have a configurable lease set and
are automatically revoked at the end of the lease.

After mounting this backend, credentials to generate IAM keys must
be configured with the "root" path and policies must be written using
the "roles/" endpoints before any access keys can be generated.


The following paths are supported by this backend. To view help for
any of the paths below, use the help command with any route matching
the path pattern. Note that depending on the policy of your auth token,
you may or may not be able to access certain paths.

        Configure the default lease information for generated credentials.

        Configure the root credentials that are used to manage IAM.

        Generate an access key pair for a specific role.

        Read and write IAM policies that access keys can be made for.

The vault path-help command takes a path. By specifying a root path, it will give us the overview of that secrets engine. Notice how the help not only contains a description, but also the exact regular expressions used to match routes for this backend along with a brief description of what the route is for.

» Path Help

After seeing the overview, we can continue to dive deeper by getting help for an individual path. For this, just use vault path-help with a path that would match the regular expression for that path. Note that the path doesn't need to actually work. For example, we'll get the help below for accessing aws/creds/my-non-existent-role, even though we never created the role:

$ vault path-help aws/creds/my-non-existent-role
Request:        creds/my-non-existent-role
Matching Route: ^creds/(?P<name>\w(([\w-.]+)?\w)?)$

Generate an access key pair for a specific role.


    name (string)
        Name of the role


This path will generate a new, never before used key pair for
accessing AWS. The IAM policy used to back this key pair will be
the "name" parameter. For example, if this backend is mounted at "aws",
then "aws/creds/deploy" would generate access keys for the "deploy" role.

The access keys will have a lease associated with them. The access keys
can be revoked by using the lease ID.

Within a path, we are given the parameters that this path requires. Some parameters come from the route itself. In this case, the name parameter is a named capture from the route regular expression. There is also a description of what that path does.

Go ahead and explore more paths! Enable other secrets engines, traverse their help systems, and learn about what they do.

» Next

The help system may not be the most exciting feature of Vault, but it is indispensable in day-to-day usage. The help system lets you learn about how to use any backend within Vault without leaving the command line.

Next, we will learn about authentication.