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I was working on a shell script and I accidentally created a file with the variable as its name. Now I have $file in my ls output, and cannot remove it. What can I do?

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5 Answers 5

up vote 11 down vote accepted

You can escape the $ with \:

rm \$file
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Maybe add a comment about escaping special characters? –  Keith Jun 2 '11 at 3:34
3  
It wouldn't hurt to use the -i switch (interactive, so you are prompted before the final removal) in this case... –  jasonwryan Jun 2 '11 at 3:40

Any graphical file manager should be able to handle this through the context menu, because it doesn't try to interpret anything.

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Basically, if you want to do things literal with these weird characters, you need to escape it. In a shell there are several ways to do that. The first one is to prepend a '\' to every character you want to escape. So you can do rm \$file. Another way is to quote them with single quotes, for example, rm '$file' or rm '$'file. Some people also consider double quotes as a mean to "escape", but it only escapes white spaces. For example if you have a file named a file, you can do

rm a\ file

or

rm 'a file'

or

rm "a file"
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You can also do

rm '$file'

Stuff in single quotes is taken as literal always,so globs and variables don't get expanded.

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If you ever accidentally create a file named -rf, you can use rm -- -rf to delete it.

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This seems scary to try to test. :-) –  Peter Grill Jun 2 '11 at 9:49
    
@Peter Grill: This is exactly why the -- option was created; to remove files that would otherwise be taken as options. Alternatively, you could test it with a brand-new directory named '-rf': rm -- -rf should give you an error about being a directory. –  Kevin M Jun 2 '11 at 15:59

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