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

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160
votes
10answers
17k 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 ...
77
votes
5answers
16k 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 ...
61
votes
1answer
3k 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 ...
48
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) $ ...
39
votes
2answers
4k 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?
39
votes
1answer
817 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 ...
38
votes
3answers
16k 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 ...
29
votes
10answers
16k 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. ...
28
votes
3answers
56k 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 ...
28
votes
3answers
2k 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 ...
26
votes
5answers
3k views

Better way of accepting variations of ‘Yes’ from a shell prompt

Usability testing of a shell script I wrote found that people had different expectations on how to answer a question that expected ‘yes’ as the answer. See variations in the below code example. ...
26
votes
3answers
1k 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 ...
25
votes
3answers
3k 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 ...
24
votes
5answers
15k 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 ...
24
votes
4answers
5k 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: ...
23
votes
2answers
2k 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 ...
23
votes
2answers
1k views

What does “${-#*i}” != “$-” mean?

In /etc/profile I see this: for i in /etc/profile.d/*.sh ; do if [ -r "$i" ]; then if [ "${-#*i}" != "$-" ]; then . "$i" else . "$i" >/dev/null 2>&1 ...
23
votes
9answers
1k views

for vs find in Bash

When looping through files there are two ways: 1. use a for-loop for f in *; do echo "$f" done 2. use find find * -prune | while read f; do echo "$f" done Assuming these two loops will ...
23
votes
7answers
1k views

Should scripts that require sudo fail if they don't have it, or use sudo and prompt?

I have a script which gives me fine-grained control over my backlight brightness and requires sudo to run. It's essentially this: backlight="/sys/class/backlight/acpi_video0/brightness" echo $1 | tee ...
22
votes
7answers
3k views

What purpose does the colon builtin serve?

I've hacked on a lot of shell scripts, and sometimes the simplest things baffle me. Today I ran across a script that made extensive use of the : (colon) bash builtin. The documenation seems simple ...
22
votes
6answers
9k 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 ...
22
votes
8answers
21k 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 ...
21
votes
3answers
9k views

If I sudo execute a Bash script file, will all commands inside the Bash script be executed as sudo as well?

I want to write an automated post-installation script in Bash (called post-install.sh, for instance). The script will automatically add and update repositories, install and update packages, edit ...
21
votes
3answers
5k views

What's the standard for indentation in shell scripts?

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?
20
votes
3answers
11k 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 ...
20
votes
4answers
10k views

How do I exit a script in a conditional statement?

I'm writing a bash script where I want to exit if the user is not root. The conditional works fine, but the script does not exit. [[ `id -u` == 0 ]] || (echo "Must be root to run script"; exit) ...
20
votes
2answers
768 views

Why escape trivial characters in shell script?

I just opened a legacy shell script (written in old ksh88 on Solaris) and found the following repeated all throughout the code: [ -f $myfile ] && \rm -f $myfile The escaping backslash ...
20
votes
2answers
3k views

aliasing cd to pushd - is it a good idea?

Is it a good idea to use the following alias: cd() { pushd $1; } in bash? I think this would be very useful, since I can then use a series of popds instead of just a cd - once. Is there any ...
20
votes
1answer
3k views

Execute bash scripts on entering a directory

What is the best way to execute a script when entering into a directory? When I move into a new directory I would like bash to execute the projectSettings.bash script much like RVM does.
19
votes
2answers
3k views

What is the difference between running “bash script.sh” and “./script.sh”?

If script.sh is just something typical like #!/bin/bash echo "Hello World!" Is there a preferred way to run the script? I think you first have to chmod it so it becomes executable?
19
votes
3answers
859 views

Which are the standard commands available in every Linux based distribution?

I would like to know which are the standard commands available in every Linux system. For example if you get a debian/ubuntu/redhat/suse/arch/slackware etc, you will always find there commands like: ...
18
votes
4answers
7k 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 ...
18
votes
2answers
3k 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 ...
18
votes
1answer
611 views

Is there a standard command that always exits with a failure?

I want to test my script with a command that fails. I could use an existing command with bad arguments. I could also write a simple script that immediately exits with a failure. Both of these are easy ...
18
votes
3answers
28k views

Shell script fails: Syntax error: “(” unexpected

I've been working on a script that automates setting up a development environment for Raspberry Pi development (step by step details that work are here). The script is linked in that article but ...
17
votes
4answers
2k views

How Does Linux deal with shell scripts?

For this question, let's consider a bash shell script, though this question must be applicable to all types of shell script. When someone executes a shell script, does Linux load all the script at ...
17
votes
3answers
4k views

How to properly collect an array of lines in zsh

I thought the following would group the output of my_command in an array of lines: IFS='\n' array_of_lines=$(my_command); so that $array_of_lines[1] would refer to the first line in the output of ...
17
votes
3answers
437 views

Finding the correct tmp dir on multiple platforms

I have a script that needs to create temporary files for its work, and clean up after itself. My question is about finding the right base directory for the temporary files. The script needs to work ...
17
votes
4answers
21k views

How to introduce timeout for shell scripting?

I want to run a shell script that got a loop in it and it can go for ever which I do not want to happen. So I need to introduce a timeout for the whole script. How can I introduce a timeout for the ...
17
votes
2answers
13k 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 ...
17
votes
2answers
292 views

Shell function definition: why is there a space after the opening brace?

You probably know of that fork bomb: :(){ :|:&};: #WARNING: harmful code I wonder why it is necessary, for it to parse, to include a space after the opening curly brace.
17
votes
2answers
4k 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 ...
16
votes
3answers
16k 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.
16
votes
3answers
33k 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 ...
16
votes
6answers
14k 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?
16
votes
7answers
1k views

How to efficiently generate large, uniformly distributed, random integers in bash?

I have been wondering what would be the best way to get good randomness in bash, i.e., what would be a procedure to get a random positive integer between MIN and MAX such that The range can be ...
15
votes
8answers
2k views

What is the utility of the : command in shell scripting, given that it explicitly does nothing?

In the answer to this question about comments in shell scripting, it is indicated that the : is a null command that explicitly does nothing (but is not to be used for comments). What would be the ...
15
votes
6answers
1k views

Simultaneously calculate multiple digests (md5, sha256)?

Under the assumption that disk I/O and free RAM is a bottleneck (while CPU time is not the limitation), does a tool exist that can calculate multiple message digests at once? I am particularly ...
15
votes
3answers
768 views

What is the difference between [[ $a == z* ]] and [ $a == z* ]?

Is there is any difference between these two. [[ $a == z* ]] and [ $a == z* ] Can I have an example where they would have different outputs? Furthermore, how does the working of [[ ]] differs ...
15
votes
3answers
8k views

Variable as command; eval vs bash -c

I was reading a bash script someone made and I noticed that the author doesn't use eval to evaluate a variable as a command The author used bash -c "$1" instead of eval "$1" I assume using eval ...