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I have seen this construct in scripts a lot and used it myself, but it bothers me that I can't seem to find it in the documentation.


[ -f file1 ] &&
[ -f file2 ] &&
echo "Both files exist." ||
echo "One or the other file doesn't exist."

This could also be done with backslashes before the newlines, as mentioned in man bash:

If a \<newline> pair appears,  and  the  backslash  is  not
itself  quoted,  the \<newline> is treated as a line continuation (that
is, it is removed from the input stream and effectively ignored).


[ -f file1 ] && \
[ -f file2 ] && \
echo "Both files exist." || \
echo "One or the other file doesn't exist."

...but this doesn't seem to be necessary. The first version above works even without the backslashes.

Where can I find this in man bash? (Also, is this bash specific or POSIX compliant?)

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up vote 24 down vote accepted

A newline is ignored in a few contexts where there is manifestly an unterminated command. These contexts include after a control operator (&&, ||, |, &, ;, ;;, but not !).

I don't see this documented in the bash manual.

In POSIX, it's specified via the grammar rules. Wherever the rules have linebreak, you can have zero or more line breaks.

share|improve this answer
+1, I didn't knew it worked for the simple pipe ( | ) . I wish we could also put them on the next line, for readability, but it doesn't work that way (if doing that, you need to espace the preceding newline). – Olivier Dulac Jan 6 at 12:49
@OlivierDulac How could that possibly work? When it's processing the current command line, how is it supposed to know that you're planning to type | at the beginning of the next line? Remember, the shell is also used interactively, not just in scripts, and the grammar is the same. – Barmar Jan 6 at 19:43
@Barmar : I know, I do know this (wrote compilers at school ^^)... I said "I wish", and it is not a very plausible wish – Olivier Dulac Jan 6 at 19:54
@DocSalvager, can you give an example of a logic bug that would help prevent? I have a hard time seeing it.... – Wildcard Jan 9 at 5:34
@DocSalvager, I wouldn't actually use the code as I wrote it—it was an illustration. Without the last line (the else clause) I would use it that way, though. (For "if this and this then do that" this && this2 && that is fine but for an else clause I'd use an actual if then else fi.) – Wildcard Jan 13 at 4:08

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