Questions about shell scripts, executable files that are interpreted by a shell (bash, zsh, etc.).

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246
votes
14answers
33k views

In Bash, when to alias, when to script, and when to write a function?

It's taken me almost 10 years of Linux usage to ask this question. It was all trial and error and random late-night internet surfing. But people shouldn't need 10 years for this. If I were just ...
195
votes
8answers
59k views

Why is it better to use “#!/usr/bin/env NAME” instead of “#!/path/to/NAME” as my shebang?

I notice that some scripts which I have acquired from others have the shebang #!/path/to/NAME while others (using the same tool, NAME) have the shebang #!/usr/bin/env NAME. Both seem to work properly....
146
votes
21answers
142k views

How can I get my external IP address in a shell script?

I need to find my external IP address from a shell script. At the moment I use this function: myip () { lwp-request -o text checkip.dyndns.org | awk '{ print $NF }' } But it depends on perl-...
107
votes
3answers
152k views

What characters do I need to escape when using sed in a sh script?

Take the following script: #!/bin/sh sed 's/(127\.0\.1\.1)\s/\1/' [some file] If I try to run this in sh (dash here), it'll fail because of the parentheses, which need to be escaped. But I don't ...
101
votes
3answers
63k views

Why does my shell script choke on whitespace or other special characters?

Or, an introductory guide to robust filename handling and other string passing in shell scripts. I wrote a shell script which works well most of the time. But it chokes on some inputs (e.g. on some ...
89
votes
3answers
3k views

Security implications of forgetting to quote a variable in bash/POSIX shells

If you've been following unix.stackexchange.com for a while, you should hopefully know by now that leaving a variable unquoted in list context (as in echo $var) in Bourne/POSIX shells (zsh being the ...
85
votes
5answers
56k views

Using “${a:-b}” for variable assignment in scripts

I have been looking at a few scripts other people wrote (specifically Red Hat), and a lot of their variables are assigned using the following notation VARIABLE1="${VARIABLE1:-some_val}" or some expand ...
85
votes
2answers
134k views

Empty the contents of a file

I am aware of three methods to delete all entries from a file. They are >filename touch filename filename < /dev/null Of these three I abuse >filename the most as that requires the ...
81
votes
2answers
8k views

Have backticks (i.e. `cmd`) in *sh shells been deprecated?

I've seen this comment many times on Unix & Linux as well as on other sites that use the phrasing "backticks have been deprecated", with respect to shells such as Bash & Zsh. Is this ...
72
votes
5answers
221k views

How to append multiple lines to a file with bash

I am writing a bash script to look for a file if it doesn't exist then create it and append this to it: Host localhost ForwardAgent yes So "line then new line 'tab' then text" I think its a ...
71
votes
1answer
7k views

Why does the following script delete itself?

If you create an executable file with the following contents, and run it, it will delete itself. How does this work? #!/bin/rm
67
votes
3answers
13k views

$VAR vs ${VAR} and to quote or not to quote

I can write VAR=$VAR1 VAR=${VAR1} VAR="$VAR1" VAR="${VAR1}" the end result to me all seems about the same. Why should I write one or the other? are any of these not portable/POSIX?
61
votes
11answers
132k views

Delete the last character of a string using string manipulation in shell script

I would like to delete the last character of a string, I tried this little script : #! /bin/sh t="lkj" t=${t:-2} echo $t but it prints "lkj", what I am doing wrong? Thank you in advance!
59
votes
6answers
103k views

How can I test if a variable is empty or contains only spaces?

The following bash syntax verifies if param isn't empty: [[ ! -z $param ]] For example: param="" [[ ! -z $param ]] && echo "I am not zero" No output and its fine. But when param ...
55
votes
2answers
3k views

Shebang starting with `//`?

I'm confused about following script (hello.go). //usr/bin/env go run $0 $@ ; exit package main import "fmt" func main() { fmt.Printf("hello, world\n") } It can execute. (on MacOS X 10.9.5) $ ...
53
votes
3answers
52k views

Multiline shell script comments - how does this work?

Recently, I stumbled upon a multiline comment type I have never seen before - here is a script example: echo a # : aaa : ddd # echo b This seems to work, hell, even vim syntax-highlights it. What ...
52
votes
2answers
320k views

Using 'sed' to find and replace [duplicate]

I know this question has probably been answered before. I have seen many threads about this in various places, but the answers are usually hard to extract for me. I am looking for help with an ...
48
votes
8answers
113k views

Delete First line of a file

How can I delete the first line of a file and keep the changes? I tried this but it erases the whole content of the file. $sed 1d file.txt > file.txt
48
votes
11answers
35k views

Correct locking in shell scripts?

Sometimes you have to make sure that only one instance of a shell script is running at the same time. For example a cron job which is executed via crond that does not provide locking on its own (e.g. ...
44
votes
4answers
1k views

How does bash differentiate between brace expansion and command grouping?

I've noticed that { can be used in brace expansion: echo {1..8} or in command grouping: {ls;echo hi} How does bash know the difference?
43
votes
9answers
12k views

How to do nothing forever in an elegant way?

I have a program which produces useful information on stdout but also reads from stdin. I want to redirect its standard output to a file without providing anything on standard input. So far, so good: ...
43
votes
6answers
24k views

Split pages in pdf

I have a scanned pdf file which has scanned two pages on one virtual page (page in pdf file). The resolution is with good quality. The problem is I have to zoom when reading and drag from left to the ...
43
votes
15answers
15k views

Detect init system using the shell

This may have more to do with detecting operating systems, but I specifically need the init system currently in use on the system. Fedora 15 now uses systemd, Ubuntu uses Upstart, while others use ...
39
votes
2answers
55k views

How to check if there are no parameters provided to a command?

How do you check if $* is empty? In other words, how to check if there were no arguments provided to a command?
39
votes
4answers
3k views

Should I care about unnecessary cats?

A lot of command-line utilities can take their input either from a pipe or as a filename argument. For long shell scripts, I find starting the chain off with a cat makes it more readable, especially ...
39
votes
2answers
77k views

How can I execute local script on remote machine and include arguments?

I have written a script that runs fine when executed locally: ./sysMole -time Aug 18 18 The arguments "-time", "Aug", "18", and "18" are successfully passed on to the script. Now, this script is ...
38
votes
2answers
4k views

Why is using && 75 times faster than if…fi and how to make code clearer

I have the following working code: largest_prime=1 for number_under_test in {1..100} do is_prime=true factors='' for ((divider = 2; divider < number_under_test-1; divider++)); do ...
38
votes
5answers
15k views

How can I detect if the shell is controlled from SSH?

I want to detect from a shell script (more specifically .zshrc) if it is controlled through SSH. I tried the HOST variable but it's always the name of the computer which is running the shell. Can I ...
38
votes
3answers
24k views

What does it mean to have a $“dollarsign-prefixed string” in a script?

I just saw this in an init script: echo $"Stopping Apache" What is that dollar-sign for? My research so far: I found this in the bash manual: extquote If set, $'string' and $"string"...
38
votes
3answers
9k views

How can I test for POSIX compliance for shell scripts?

Probably the main thing that this website has taught me so far is the importance of writing portable shell scripts. Considering that POSIX is the closest thing to a common standard between all ...
37
votes
3answers
15k views

Are there naming conventions for variables in shell scripts?

Most languages have naming conventions for variables, the most common style I see in shell scripts is MY_VARIABLE=foo. Is this the convention or is it only for global variables? What about variables ...
37
votes
1answer
10k views

When is double-quoting necessary?

The old advice used to be to double-quote any expression involving a $VARIABLE, at least if one wanted it to be interpreted by the shell as one single item, otherwise, any spaces in the content of $...
35
votes
7answers
21k views

Can a script be executable but not readable?

Is it possible to execute a script if there is no permission to read it? In root mode, I made a script and I want the other user to execute this script but not read it. I did chmod to forbid read and ...
34
votes
13answers
3k views

What is a fast command line way to switch between multiple directories for system administration?

What is a fast command line way to switch between multiple directories for system administration? I mean, I can use pushd . and popd to toggle, but what if I want to store multiples and cycle through ...
34
votes
4answers
20k views

In bash, is it possible to use an integer variable in the loop control of a for loop?

I have the following bash script: #!/bin/bash upperlim=10 for i in {0..10} do echo $i done for i in {0..$upperlim} do echo $i done The first for loop (without the variable upperlim in the loop ...
32
votes
12answers
26k views

Decoding URL encoding (percent encoding)

I want to decode URL encoding, is there any built-in tool for doing this or could anyone provide me with a sed code that will do this? I did search a bit through unix.stackexchange.com and on the ...
32
votes
13answers
39k views

How to get my own IP address and save it to a variable in a shell script?

How can I get my own IP address and save it to a variable in a shell script?
32
votes
3answers
93k views

linux + add X days to date and get new virtual date

I have Linux ( RH 5.3) machine I need to add/calculate 10 days plus date so then I will get new date (expiration date)) for example # date Sun Sep 11 07:59:16 IST 2012 So I need to get ...
32
votes
3answers
40k views

Find the owner of a directory or file, but only return that and nothing else

I am looking for a command that will return the owner of a directory and only that--such as a regex parsing the ls -lat command or something similar? I want to use the result in another script.
32
votes
5answers
45k views

Passing named arguments to shell scripts

Is there any easy way to pass (receive) named parameters to a shell script? For example, my_script -p_out '/some/path' -arg_1 '5' And inside my_script.sh receive them as: # I believe this ...
32
votes
6answers
81k views

How to measure time of program execution and store that inside a variable

In order to find out how long certain operations within a Bash (v4+) script take, I would like to parse the output from the time command "separately" and (ultimately) capture it within a Bash variable ...
32
votes
4answers
14k views

What's the standard for indentation in shell scripts? [closed]

Java community use 4 spaces as the unit of indentation. 1 Ruby community use 2 spaces that is generally agreed-upon. 2 What's the standard for indentation in shell scripts? 2 or 4 spaces or 1 tab?
32
votes
8answers
47k views

Different ways to execute a shell script

There a several ways to execute a script, the ones I know are: /path/to/script # using the path (absolute or relative) . script # using the . (dot) source script # using the `source` command ...
30
votes
4answers
11k views

Fix or alternative for mktemp in OS X

I'm looking at a bash script someone else wrote that uses mktemp: TEMP=`mktemp --directory` However, this line does not work on my machine (OS X 10.6). How would I fix this line so that it is ...
30
votes
4answers
26k views

What is the meaning of IFS=$'\n' in bash scripting?

At the beginning of a bash shell script is the following line: IFS=$'\n' What is the meaning behind this collection of symbols?
30
votes
9answers
88k views

How to compare two dates in a shell

How to compare two dates in a shell script? For example something like todate=2013-07-18 cond=2013-07-15 if [ $todate -ge $cond ]; then break fi It doesn't work. ...
30
votes
3answers
4k views

What does `{ { (exit 1); exit 1; }; }` mean?

I quoted the next code snippet from config.status generated by configure. if test ! -f "$as_myself"; then { { echo "$as_me:$LINENO: error: cannot find myself; rerun with an absolute path" >&5 ...
30
votes
3answers
34k views

Execute a command before shutdown

I want to execute a simple command just before the computer shuts down (timing is not essential). For startup I can use /etc/rc.local - is there something similar for shutdown? Note that I would ...
29
votes
2answers
6k views

Why does ( echo “”; exit 1) not exit the script?

I have a script, that does not exit when I want it to. An example script with the same error is: #!/bin/bash function bla() { return 1 } bla || ( echo '1' ; exit 1 ) echo '2' I would assume ...
29
votes
2answers
69k views

Can I redirect output to a log file and background a process at the same time?

Can I redirect output to a log file and background a process at the same time? In other words, can I do something like this? nohup java -jar myProgram.jar 2>$1 > output.log & Or, is that ...