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What is the difference between a "job" and a "process"?

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up vote 29 down vote accepted

A process is any running program with its own address space.

A job is a concept used by the shell - any program you interactively start that doesn't detach (ie, not a daemon) is a job. If you're running an interactive program, you can press CtrlZ to suspend it. Then you can start it back in the foreground (using fg) or in the background (using bg).

While the program is suspended or running in the background, you can start another program - you would then have two jobs running. You can also start a program running in the background by appending an "&" like this: program &. That program would become a background job. To list all the jobs you are running, you can use jobs.

For more information on jobs, see this section of the bash man page.

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In the above example, when we have 2 jobs running we also have 2 processes running, aren't we ? Could you elaborate the meaning of its own address space ? In which case a program does not have its own address space ? – Kenny Nov 20 '15 at 11:27
@Kenny yes, those tro jobs would also be processes. In fact, every job is a process. A job is related to your she'll session. Every process you start that doesn't detatch from your tty is a job. – Shawn J. Goff Nov 20 '15 at 18:01
@Kenny, as far as processes, when I say program, that's a very general thing - a set of ordered instructions for the CPU to carry out. This is also called a task or a thread of execution. A process may create another thread that shares its address space. – Shawn J. Goff Nov 20 '15 at 18:06
piped commands such as in ls | sort is a job, but each command runs as a child process of a different subshell process. This is an example of a job consisting of multiple processes. How can your definition of a job explain that a job can consist of multiple processes? – Tim Feb 25 at 19:33

UNIX has separate concepts "process", "process group", and "session".

Each shell you get at login becomes the leader of its own new session and process group, and sets the controlling process group of the terminal to itself.

The shell creates a process group within the current session for each "job" it launches, and places each process it starts into the appropriate process group. For example, ls | head is a pipeline of two processes, which the shell considers a single job, and will belong to a single, new process group.

A process is a (collection of) thread of execution and other context, such as address space and file descriptor table. A process may start other processes; these new processes will belong to the same process group as the parent unless other action is taken. Each process may also have a "controlling terminal", which starts off the same as its parent.

The shell has the concept of "foreground" jobs and "background" jobs. Foreground jobs are process groups with control of the terminal, and background jobs are process groups without control of the terminal.

Each terminal has a foreground process group. When bringing a job to the foreground, the shell sets it as the terminal's foreground process group; when putting a job to the background, the shell sets the terminal's foreground process group to another process group or itself.

Processes may read from and write to their controlling terminal if they are in the foreground process group. Otherwise they receive SIGTTIN and SIGTTOU signals on attempts to read from and write to the terminal respectively. By default these signals suspend the process, although most shells mask SIGTTOU so that a background job can write to the terminal uninterrupted.

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Above definitions are very technical but maybe the op wanted a more day to day clarification. I think that a job is a scheduled process. When we deal with processes in general there is not necessarily the notion of schedule, but when we use the word "job" we always mean that it is scheduled, or repetitive like a loop, it's like a worker.

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