Skip to main content

Custom Rules

Regal is built to be easily extended. Using custom rules is a great way to enforce naming conventions, best practices or more opinionated rules across teams and organizations.

There are two types of custom rules to be aware of — those that are included with Regal in the custom category, and those that you write yourself. The rules in the custom category provide a way to enforce common organizational requirements, like naming conventions, by means of configuration rather than code. If your requirements aren't fulfilled by the rules in this category, your other option is to write your own custom rules using Rego.

Your Own Custom Rules

If you'd like to provide your own linter rules for a project, you may do so by placing them in a rules directory inside the .regal directory preferably placed in the root of your project (which is also where custom configuration resides). The directory structure of a policy repository with custom linter rules might then look something like this:

├── .regal
│ ├── config.yaml
│ └── rules
│ ├── naming.rego
│ └── naming_test.rego
└── policy
├── authz.rego
└── authz_test.rego

If you so prefer, custom rules may also be provided using the --rules option for regal lint, which may point either to a Rego file, or a directory containing Rego files and potentially data (JSON or YAML).

Creating a New Rule

The simplest way to create a new rule is to use the regal new rule command. This command provides scaffolding for quickly creating a new rule, including a file for testing. The command has two required arguments: --category and --name, which should be self-explanatory. To create a new custom rule:

regal new rule --category naming --name foo-bar-baz

This will create a .regal/rules directory in the current working directory, if one does not already exist, and place a directory named after --category in it, where it will place a policy for the rule, and another one to test it. If you'd rather create this directory structure in some other place than the current working directory, you may use the --output flag to specify a different location. The generated rule includes a simple example, which can be verified by running regal test .regal/rules/${category}. Modify the rule and the test to suit your needs!

If you'd like to create a new built-in rule for submitting a PR in Regal, you may add the --type builtin flag to the command (the default is custom). This will create a similar scaffolding under bundle/regal/rules in the Regal repository.

Developing Rules

Regal rules works primarily on the abstract syntax tree (AST) as parsed by OPA, with a few custom additions. The AST of each policy scanned will be provided as input to the linter policies, and additional data useful in the context of linting, as well as some purpose-built custom functions are made available in any Regal policy.

If we were to write the simplest policy possible, and parse it using opa parse, it would contain nothing but a package declaration:


package policy

Using opa parse --format json --json-include locations policy.rego, we're provided with the AST of the above policy:

"package": {
"location": {
"file": "policy.rego",
"row": 1,
"col": 1
"path": [
"location": {
"file": "policy.rego",
"row": 1,
"col": 9
"type": "var",
"value": "data"
"location": {
"file": "policy.rego",
"row": 1,
"col": 9
"type": "string",
"value": "policy"

As trivial as may be, it's enough to build our first linter rule! Let's say we'd like to enforce a uniform naming convention on any policy in a repository. Packages may be named anything, but must start with the name of the organization (Acme Corp). So package acme.corp.policy should be allowed, but not package policy or package policy.acme.corp. One exception: policy authors should be allowed to write policy for the system.log package provided by OPA to allow masking sensitive data from decision logs.

An example policy to implement this requirement might look something like this:

# description: All packages must use "acme.corp" base name
# related_resources:
# - description: documentation
# ref:
# schemas:
# - input: schema.regal.ast
package custom.regal.rules.naming["acme-corp-package"]

import future.keywords.contains
import future.keywords.if

import data.regal.result

report contains violation if {
not acme_corp_package
not system_log_package

violation :=, result.location(input["package"].path[1]))

acme_corp_package if {
input["package"].path[1].value == "acme"
input["package"].path[2].value == "corp"

system_log_package if {
input["package"].path[1].value == "system"
input["package"].path[2].value == "log"

Starting from top to bottom, these are the components comprising our custom rule:

  1. The package of custom rules must start with custom.regal.rules, followed by the category of the rule, and the title (which is commonly quoted as rule names use - for spaces).
  2. The data.regal.result provides some helpers for formatting the result of a violation for inclusion in a report.
  3. Regal rules make heavy use of metadata annotations in order to document the purpose of the rule, along with any other information that could potentially be useful. All rule packages must have a description. Providing links to additional documentation under related_resources is recommended, but not required.
  4. Note the schema attribute present in the metadata annotation. Adding this is optional, but highly recommended, as it will make the compiler aware of the structure of the input, i.e. the AST. This allows the compiler to fail when unknown attributes are referenced, due to typos or other mistakes. The compiler will also fail when an attribute is referenced using a type it does not have, like referring to a string as if it was a number. Set to schema.regal.ast to use the AST schema provided by Regal.
  5. Regal will evaluate any rule named report in each linter policy, so at least one report rule must be present.
  6. In our example report rule, we evaluate another rule (acme_corp_package) in order to know if the package name starts with acme.corp, and another rule (system_log_package) to know if it starts with system.log. If neither of the conditions are true, the rule fails and violation is created.
  7. The violation is created by calling, which takes the metadata from the package (using rego.metadata.chain which conveniently also includes the path of the package) and returns a result, which will later be included in the final report provided by Regal.
  8. The result.location helps extract the location from the element failing the test. Make sure to use it!

Parsing and Testing

Regal provides a few tools mirrored from OPA in order to help test and debug custom rules. These are necessary since OPA is not aware of the custom built-in functions included in Regal, and will fail when encountering e.g. regal.parse_module in a custom linter policy. The following commands are included with Regal to help you author custom rules:

  • regal parse works similarly to opa parse, but will always output JSON and include location information, and any additional data added to the AST by Regal. Use this if you want to know exactly what the input will look like for any given policy, when provided to Regal for linting.
  • regal test works like opa test, but aware of any custom Regal additions, and the schema used for the AST. Use this to test custom linter rules, e.g. regal test .regal/rules.

Note that the print built-in function is enabled for regal test. Good to use for quick debugging!

Built-in Functions

Regal provides a few custom built-in functions tailor-made for linter policies.

regal.parse_module(filename, policy)

Works just like rego.parse_module, but provides an AST including location information, and custom additions added by Regal, like the text representation of each line in the original policy. This is useful for authoring tests to assert linter rules work as expected.


Printing nested objects and arrays is quite helpful for debugging AST nodes, but the standard representation — where everything is displayed on a single line — not so much. This built-in allows marshalling JSON similar to json.marshal, but with newlines and spaces added for a more pleasant experience.

In addition to this, Regal provides many helpful functions, rules and utilities in Rego. Browsing the source code of the regal.ast package to see what's available is recommended!


If you'd like to discuss custom rules development or just talk about Regal in general, please join us in the #regal channel in the Styra Community Slack!