Useful Google Cloud Platform Commands Cheat Sheet (15 Practical Tips)

gcloud is the primary CLI tool for the Google Cloud Platform. You can find a shortlist of the frequently used commands below. There are also some examples of gsutil and terraform command-line tools. Mastering them helps you to script and automate many GCP operations.

Table of Contents

Install gcloud command-line tool

For Linux

Visit to obtain the download link of Google Cloud SDK and download the latest package. Unzip the file, and run these commands:

./google-cloud-sdk/bin/gcloud init

For Debian / Ubuntu

Follow the instruction below to install the Cloud SDK:

  1. Add the Cloud SDK distribution URI as a package source:

     echo "deb [signed-by=/usr/share/keyrings/] cloud-sdk main" | sudo tee -a /etc/apt/sources.list.d/google-cloud-sdk.list
     sudo apt-get install apt-transport-https ca-certificates
     curl | sudo apt-key --keyring /usr/share/keyrings/ add -
  2. Update and install the Cloud SDK:

     sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install google-cloud-sdk
     gcloud init

The gcloud Commands Cheat Sheet

Find the Project ID

The most frequently gcloud command I used in Google Cloud Shells is to set the project ID as an environment variable with the Linux export command:

export PROJECT_ID=$(gcloud info --format='value(config.project)')


There are so many situations that use the project ID as a parameter. This keeps your codes much tiny and secure by using the environment variable.

For example, the project ID is often used as the namespace of the bucket names in Google Cloud Storage:


gsutil mb gs://${BUCKET}

Every bucket name must be unique across the entire Google Cloud Storage. Using the project ID as prefix or suffix is a good practice for uniqueness and consistency of the bucket names.

Extract a value from a JSON output of a gcloud command

gcloud compute ... --format=json | jq -r '<key>')

jq is a lightweight and flexible command-line JSON processor. With the -r option, it outputs raw strings, not JSON texts. Use jq --help to show the help, or visit its official site for more details.

Find the Service Account for Compute Engine API

Besides the project ID, a service account email is required for several command-line tools, like creating a VM instance to GCE. You can extract the service account for the Compute Engine API using the following code:

export SERVICE_ACCOUNT=$(gcloud --project=$PROJECT_ID \
    iam service-accounts list --format=json | jq -r '.[] | select \
    (.displayName=="Compute Engine default service account").email')


Find the used IP address

export USED_IP_ADDRESS=$(gcloud compute addresses describe $USED_IP \
    --region=us-central1 --format=json | jq -r '.address')


Change default zone

To set a default zone to use when working with zonal Compute Engine resources, such as us-west1-b, run:

gcloud config set compute/zone us-west1-b

To list all zones in a project in table form, run:

gcloud compute zones list

For more details, please read gcloud compute zones list in Cloud SDK Documentation.

SHH into a Compute Engine server

gcloud compute ssh user@your-server-name-1-vm

Replace user and your-server-name-1-vm with yours.

Download a folder from the server through SCP

gcloud compute scp --recurse user@your-server-name-1-vm:/path/to/the/directory/that/you/want/to/download/to/your/local/machine/ ./

Replace user, your-server-name-1-vm and /path/to/the/directory/that/you/want/to/download/to/your/local/machine/ with yours.

Create a new Kubernetes Cluster

Enabling Kubernetes Engine API:

gcloud services enable

The following command is an example to create a new Kubernetes cluster named my-cluster with two nodes (N1 standard 1) in the zone us-central1-f:

gcloud container clusters create my-cluster \
--num-nodes 2 \
--machine-type n1-standard-1 \
--zone us-central1-f

You will receive warnings in the output that can be safely ignored. For more details, please read gcloud container clusters create in Cloud SDK Documentation.

The gsutil Cheat Sheet

gsutil is the command-line Google Storage utilities. Equivalent to aws s3 but for the Google Cloud Platform, it allows you to access Google Cloud Storage from the command line.

Create a multi-regional bucket

gsutil mb -c multi_regional gs://${BUCKET}

Copy local file(s)/directory into a GCS bucket

gsutil cp <filename> gs://${BUCKET}

List all your buckets

gsutil ls

For more about gsulit, please read or run:

gsutil help

Terraform Commands Cheat Sheet

Switch the version of Terraform with tfswitch

Confirm your Terraform version by using:

terraform version

Your output should look like this:

Terraform v0.12.x

To switch to the desired version by using a Terraform version manager tfswitch, run the following codes to install and configure tfswitch:

mkdir -p ${HOME}/bin
tar -xvf terraform-switcher_0.7.737_linux_amd64.tar.gz -C ${HOME}/bin
export PATH=$PATH:${HOME}/bin
tfswitch -b ${HOME}/bin/terraform 0.11.14
echo "0.11.14" >> .tfswitchrc

Run Terraform

terraform init

The terraform init command is used to initialize a working directory containing the Terraform configuration files. This command performs several different initialization steps in order to prepare a working directory for use and is always safe to run multiple times, to bring the working directory up to date with changes in the configuration:

terraform plan -out=tfplan

The terraform plan command is used to create an execution plan. Terraform performs a refresh, unless explicitly disabled, and then determines what actions are necessary to achieve the desired state specified in the configuration files. This command is a convenient way to check whether the execution plan for a set of changes matches your expectations without making any changes to real resources or to the state. For example, terraform plan might be run before committing a change to version control, to create confidence that it will behave as expected.

The optional -out argument can be used to save the generated plan to a file for later execution with terraform apply.

terraform apply tfplan

The terraform apply command is used to apply the changes required to reach the desired state of the configuration, or the pre-determined set of actions generated by a terraform plan execution plan.

Other useful Linux Commands

Create a text file with content

cat > <your-filename> <<EOF
text contents

Replace <your-filename> and /*text contents*/ with yours.

This list will be kept updated. If you need more, please leave me your feedback, questions, comments, suggestions below.

See Also: Learning Google Cloud Platform on Qwiklabs: Learning Map, Assistive Tool and Tips

Chris F. Author of this blog, M.Phil.
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