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The accepted answer for a similar question for bash does not seem to work for zsh. In fact, if I copy basically the same code given in that answer, to produce the script

#!/usr/bin/zsh -
# test.sh

[[ $_ != $0 ]] && echo "sourced\n" || echo "subshell\n"

the output hardly ever corresponds to the actual situation:

zsh% chmod +x ./test.sh
zsh% env -i /usr/bin/zsh -f
zsh% ./test.sh

zsh% /usr/bin/zsh ./test.sh

zsh% /bin/bash ./test.sh

zsh% source ./test.sh

zsh% . ./test.sh

zsh% env -i /bin/bash --norc --noprofile
bash-3.2$ ./test.sh

bash-3.2$ /usr/bin/zsh ./test.sh

bash-3.2$ /bin/bash ./test.sh

bash-3.2$ source ./test.sh

bash-3.2$ . ./test.sh

When the current interactive shell is zsh, the script gets it exactly wrong every time. It fares a bit better under bash (though in a way reminiscent of the stopped watch that gets the time exactly right twice a day).

These truly abysmal results give me little confidence in this approach.

Is there something better?

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If I were desperate I'd use $SECONDS - if it's zero, then it's a subshell; >0 and the file's been sourced. That idea is so stinky, I'm only posting it as a novelty item. –  Mel Boyce Apr 19 '13 at 14:56

3 Answers 3

You could get the Shell Level:

[ $SHLVL -gt 1 ] && echo "subshell"

There's also (ZSH-only) $ZSH_SUBSHELL.

Obviously these break if you're nesting.

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If you only intend it to work with zsh, it looks like you could just swap the two cases:

#!/usr/bin/env zsh -
# test.sh

[[ $_ != $0 ]] && echo "subshell\n" || echo "sourced\n"

This might not be good enough for you, if you need it to support bash as well.

(I also changed the shebang because my zsh is not in /usr/bin, but this shouldn't affect you).

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The line "These truly abysmal results give me little confidence in this approach" was an attempt to discourage precisely this answer. I guess I should have been blunter about it... –  kjo Apr 19 '13 at 14:32
More specifically, this answer sounds to me like guesswork, which is not what I'm after (I can supply the guesswork myself). –  kjo Apr 19 '13 at 14:35
@kjo Yes, perhaps it would help to be more clear about your situation, what you have tried, and why this solution is inadequate. It appears to me that this solution returns 'subshell' in every case where zsh (or bash) is executing the script as a subshell, and 'sourced' when you source it from a zsh prompt; is this not what you want? Sometimes guesswork is the only viable solution in the absence of a supported test. That, or considering a different approach than detecting your script's environment. –  mrb Apr 19 '13 at 14:52
This code is used by smartcd, but does not work for me: when I source the script $_ is empty, and $0 contains the filename. –  blueyed Sep 5 at 7:50

Isn't the answer you are looking for the difference between login and interactive shell?

localhost% cat foo
#!/usr/bin/env zsh

[[ $- == *i* ]] && print ' interactive=sourced' || print ' login=called'

localhost% source foo
localhost% zsh foo   
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