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In /etc/profile I see this:

for i in /etc/profile.d/*.sh ; do
if [ -r "$i" ]; then
        if [ "${-#*i}" != "$-" ]; then
            . "$i"
            . "$i" >/dev/null 2>&1

What does ${-#*i} mean. I cannot find a definition of a parameter expansion starting ${-.

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Short for a random swearword ;-) –  vonbrand May 13 at 19:30

2 Answers 2

up vote 31 down vote accepted

$- is current option flags set by the shell itself, on invocation, or using the set builtin command:

$ echo $-
$ set -a
$ echo $-

"${-#*i}" is syntax for string removal: (from GNU bash manual)


The word is expanded to produce a pattern just as in filename expansion (see     
Filename Expansion). If the pattern matches the beginning of the expanded 
value of parameter, then the result of the expansion is the expanded value 
of parameter with the shortest matching pattern (the ‘#’ case) or the
longest matching pattern (the ‘##’ case) deleted. If parameter is ‘@’ or 
‘*’, the pattern removal operation is applied to each positional parameter 
in turn, and the expansion is the resultant list. If parameter is an array 
variable subscripted with ‘@’ or ‘*’, the pattern removal operation is 
applied to each member of the array in turn, and the expansion is the
resultant list.

So ${-#*i} remove the shortest string till the first i character:

$ echo "${-#*i}"

In your case, if [ "${-#*i}" != "$-" ] checking if your shell is interactive or not.

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Because I wildly misread the check. Deleting my comment. –  Etan Reisner May 13 at 17:58
Thanks for the clear explanation. –  Pete May 15 at 11:31

There is a shell parameter $-. In my case:

$ echo $-

${-} is the same as $- exactly like ${foo} is the same as $foo.

#*i means: Delete (as little as possible; doesn't make a difference here) from the beginning of the variable value until (including) the first i.

$ echo "${-#*i}"

In other words: [ "${-#*i}" != "$-" ] checks whether there is an i in the value of the $- variable, that is, it checks if the shell is interactive.

In other words, it's a convoluted and non-Bourne compatible way to write:

case $- in
  *i*) ...;;
  *) ...;;
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It is POSIX-compatible, though. –  grawity May 14 at 12:46

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