The shell is unix's command-line interface. You can type commands in a shell interactively, or write scripts to automate tasks. Use this tag for questions applying to /bin/sh and most compatible shells (ash, bash, ksh, zsh, …).

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24
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3answers
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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 ...
447
votes
3answers
85k views

What is the exact difference between a 'terminal', a 'shell', a 'tty' and a 'console'?

I think these terms almost refer to the same thing, when used loosely: terminal shell tty console What exactly does each of these terms refer to?
44
votes
5answers
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Redirecting stdout to a file you don't have write permission on

When you attempt to modify a file without having write permissions on it, you get an error: > touch /tmp/foo && sudo chown root /tmp/foo > echo test > /tmp/foo zsh: permission ...
84
votes
3answers
5k views

Why not use “which”? What to use then?

When looking for the path to an executable or checking what would happen would you enter a command name in a Unix shell, there's a plethora of different utilities (which, type, command, whence, where, ...
47
votes
4answers
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Difference between Login Shell and Non-Login Shell?

I understand the basic difference between an interactive shell and a non-interactive shell. But what exactly differentiates a login shell from a non-login shell? Can you give examples for uses of a ...
38
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?
62
votes
5answers
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Allow setuid on shell scripts

The setuid permission bit tells Linux to run a program with the effective user id of the owner instead of the executor: > cat setuid-test.c #include <stdio.h> #include <unistd.h> int ...
50
votes
8answers
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How do I delete a file whose name begins with “-” (hyphen a.k.a. dash or minus)?

How do you remove a file whose filename begins with a dash (hyphen or minus) -? I'm ssh'd into a remote OSX server and I have this file in my directory: tohru:~ $ ls -l total 8 -rw-r--r-- 1 me ...
25
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3answers
7k views

How to pass parameters to an alias?

For bash script, I can use "$@" to access arguments. What's the equivalent when I use an alias?
36
votes
4answers
17k views

Why is `while IFS= read` used so often, instead of `IFS=; while read..`?

It seems that normal practice would put the setting of IFS outside the while loop in order to not repeat setting it for each iteration... Is this just a habitual "monkey see, monkey do" style, as it ...
29
votes
10answers
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Batch renaming files

I have a directory full of images: image0001.png image0002.png image0003.png ... And I would like a one-liner to rename them to (say). 0001.png 0002.png 0003.png ... How do I do this?
163
votes
5answers
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What's the difference between $(stuff) and `stuff`?

There are two syntaxes for command substitution: with dollar-parentheses and with backticks. Running top -p $(pidof init) and top -p `pidof init` gives the same output. Are these two ways of doing the ...
53
votes
14answers
50k views

How can I get distribution name and version number in a simple shell script?

I'm working on a simple bash script that should be able to run on Ubuntu and CentOS distributions (support for Debian and Fedora/RHEL would be a plus) and I need to know the name and version of the ...
113
votes
15answers
58k views

How to do integer & float calculations, in bash or other languages/frameworks?

Using echo "20+5" literally produces the text "20+5" What command can I use to get the numeric sum, e.g. 25 in this case. Also, what's the easiest way to do it just using bash for floating point, ...
27
votes
3answers
2k views

Can a bash script be hooked to a file?

I want a script to sleep unless a certain file is modifed/deleted (or a file created in a certain directory, or ...). Can this be achieved in some elegant way? The simplest thing that comes to my mind ...
76
votes
2answers
20k views

What does “--” (double-dash) mean? (also known as “bare double dash”)

I have seen -- used in the compgen command. For example: compgen -W "foo bar baz" -- b What is the meaning of the --.
2
votes
3answers
253 views

Brackets in if condition: why am I getting syntax errors without whitespace?

I am using the below script to move two days back when script runs at starting two days of the year and also check first and second days of every month and move two days back. if [$month="01"] ...
4
votes
2answers
453 views

What are the shell's control and redirection operators?

I often see tutorials online that connect various commands with different symbols. For example: command1 | command2 command1 & command2 command1 || command2 command1 && command2 ...
15
votes
1answer
513 views

How do ${0##*/} and ${0%/*} work?

I'm quite confused about the following regular expressions I found in a shell script: ${0##*/} ${0%/*} How do they work?
117
votes
10answers
41k views

Turn off buffering in pipe

I have a script which calls two commands: long_running_command | print_progress The long_running_command prints a progress but I'm unhappy with it. I'm using print_progress to make it more nice ...
37
votes
4answers
4k views

How to use `which` on an aliased command?

Like most users, I have a bunch of aliases set up to give a default set of flags for frequently used programs. For instance, alias vim='vim -X' alias grep='grep -E' alias ls='ls -G' The problem is ...
26
votes
3answers
11k views

How can I make iconv replace the input file with the converted output?

I have a bash script which enumerates through every *.php file in a directory and applies iconv to it. This gets output in STDOUT. Since adding the -o parameter ( in my experience ) actually writes ...
61
votes
12answers
22k views

Get exit status of process that's piped to another

I have two processes foo and bar, connected with a pipe: $ foo | bar bar always exits 0; I'm interested in the exit code of foo. Is there any way to get at it?
14
votes
7answers
889 views

What is the difference between $* and $@?

Consider the following code: foo () { echo $* } bar () { echo $@ } foo 1 2 3 4 bar 1 2 3 4 It outputs: 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 I am using Ksh88, but I am interested in other common ...
14
votes
1answer
2k 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 ...
23
votes
3answers
12k views

Understanding IFS

The following few threads on this site and StackOverflow were helpful for understanding how IFS works: What is IFS in context of for looping? How to loop over the lines of a file Bash, read line by ...
41
votes
6answers
39k views

How do you move all files (including hidden) in a directory to another?

How do I move all files in a directory (including the hidden ones) to another directory? For example, if I have a folder "Foo" with the files ".hidden" and "notHidden" inside, how do I move both ...
33
votes
7answers
17k views

How to test what shell I am using in a terminal?

How to check what shell I am using in a terminal? What is the shell I am using in MacOS?
14
votes
2answers
1k views

gnu find and masking the {} for some shells - which?

The man page for gnu find states: -exec command ; [...] The string `{}' is replaced by the current file name being processed everywhere it occurs in the arguments to the command, ...
20
votes
1answer
18k views

How to loop over the lines of a file?

Say I have this file: hello world hello world This program #!/bin/bash for i in $(cat $1); do echo "tester: $i" done outputs tester: hello tester: world tester: hello tester: world I'd ...
18
votes
4answers
5k views

Four tasks in parallel… how do I do that?

I have a bunch of PNG images on a directory. I have an application called pngout that I run to compress these images. This application is called by a script I did. The problem is that this script does ...
16
votes
6answers
2k views

Any way to sync directory structure when the files are already on both sides?

I have two drives with the same files, but the directory structure is totally different. Is there any way to 'move' all the files on the destination side so that they match the structure of the ...
6
votes
6answers
1k views

How to clean up file extensions?

I have a directories with .MP3 files which I'd like to change the extensions to .mp3. What's the easiest way to do this? I'm think something along the lines of: find /RootPath -type f -iname "*.mp3" ...
49
votes
6answers
1k views

Resources for portable shell programming

What resources exist for portable shell programming? The ultimate answer is to test on all targeted platforms, but that's rarely practical. The POSIX / Single UNIX specification is a start, but it ...
79
votes
6answers
7k views

Why is cd not a program?

I've always wondered why cd isn't a program, but never managed to find the answer. Anyone know why this is the case?
34
votes
1answer
743 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 ...
33
votes
5answers
6k views

Timing out in a shell script

I have a shell script that's reading from standard input. In rare circumstances, there will be no one ready to provide input, and the script must time out. In case of timeout, the script must execute ...
11
votes
6answers
739 views

How can I cleanly add to $PATH?

I'd like a way to add things to $PATH, system-wide or for an individual user, without potentially adding the same path multiple times. One reason to want to do this is so that additions can be made ...
146
votes
2answers
29k views

Difference between nohup, disown and &

What is the difference between $ nohup foo and $ foo & and $ foo & $ disown
34
votes
5answers
14k views

How to check if a shell is login/interactive/batch

I think I understand the differences between an interactive, a login and a batch shell. See the following links for more help: What is the difference between a 'Login' and an 'Interactive' bash ...
29
votes
4answers
2k views

Is there a one-liner that allows me to create a directory and move into it at the same time?

I find myself repeating a lot of: mkdir longtitleproject cd longtitleproject Is there a way of doing it in one line without repeating the directory name? I'm on bash here.
9
votes
4answers
6k views

How do I handle switches in a shell script?

Are there some built-in tools that will recognize -x and --xxxx as switches, and not arguments, or do you have to go through all the input variables, test for dashes, and then parse the arguments ...
14
votes
4answers
5k views

Make `rm` move to trash

Is there a Linux script / application which, instead of deleting files, moves them to a special “trash” location? I’d like this as a replacement for rm (maybe even aliasing the latter; there are pros ...
9
votes
1answer
4k views

How can I make variables “exported” in a bash script stick around?

I have multiple Amazon EC2 accounts and want to quickly be able to switch variables, such as $EC2_HOME, using a script. I have have a shell script set up like this: #!/bin/sh export ...
7
votes
2answers
1k views

In `while IFS= read..`, why does IFS have no effect?

I might have something absolutely wrong, but it looks convincing to me, that setting IFS as one of the commands in the pre-do/done list has absolutely no effect. The outer IFS (outside the while ...
17
votes
1answer
2k views

Is there a way in bash to redirect output and still have it go to stdout?

Okay. If I wanted to redirect the output of a program to a file, I'd do something like this prog > file If I wanted to redirect both stdout and stderr to that file, then I'd do prog > file ...
23
votes
4answers
1k views

What are the responsibilities of each Pseudo-Terminal (PTY) component (software, master side, slave side)?

I am trying to figure out how a tty works1 (the work-flow and responsibilities of each elements). I have read several interesting articles about it, but there are still some blurry areas. This is ...
13
votes
5answers
12k views

Show only stderr on screen but write both stdout and stderr to file

How can I use BASH magic to achieve this? I want to only see stderr output on the screen, but I want both stdout and stderr to be written to a file. Clarification: I want both stdout and stderr to ...
12
votes
5answers
45k views

How can I read line by line from a variable in bash?

I have a variable which contains multiline output of a command. What's the most effecient way to read the output line by line from the variable? For example: jobs="$(jobs)" if [ "$jobs" ]; then ...
16
votes
5answers
29k views

Script to monitor folder for new files?

How do I detect new files in a folder with a bash script? I would like to process the files as soon as they are created in the folder. Is this possible to do so or do I have to schedule a script with ...