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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100
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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 ...
48
votes
3answers
10k 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 ...
78
votes
3answers
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Why is using a shell loop to process text considered bad practice?

Is using a while loop to process text generally considered bad practice in POSIX shells? As Stéphane Chazelas pointed out, some of the reasons for not using shell loop are conceptual, reliability, ...
711
votes
5answers
167k 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?
88
votes
3answers
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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 ...
161
votes
3answers
11k 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, ...
71
votes
5answers
8k views

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 denied:...
95
votes
8answers
15k views

Why *not* parse `ls`?

I consistently see answers quoting this link stating definitively "Don't parse ls!" This bothers me for a couple of reasons: It seems the information in that link has been accepted wholesale with ...
226
votes
11answers
91k 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 (...
108
votes
7answers
71k views

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 ...
132
votes
8answers
49k views

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 ...
67
votes
3answers
12k 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?
4
votes
3answers
1k 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"] &&...
125
votes
5answers
61k views

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 ...
172
votes
16answers
140k 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, 25 in this case? Also, what's the easiest way to do it just using bash for floating point? For ...
20
votes
1answer
821 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?
211
votes
5answers
15k views

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 ...
33
votes
3answers
13k 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?
55
votes
4answers
39k 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 ...
22
votes
7answers
3k 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 ...
97
votes
18answers
109k 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 ...
56
votes
11answers
35k views

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?
138
votes
15answers
57k 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?
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 $...
186
votes
3answers
48k 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 --.
51
votes
6answers
11k 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 ...
37
votes
5answers
24k 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 ...
95
votes
63answers
34k views

What are your favorite command line features or tricks?

Share your command line features and tricks for Unix/Linux. Try to keep it shell/distro agnostic if possible. Interested in seeing aliases, one-liners, keyboard shortcuts, small shell scripts, etc.
91
votes
31answers
27k views

Quick directory navigation in the terminal

I would like to frequently switch between directories that are in totally unrelated paths, for example /Project/Warnest/docs/ and ~/Dropbox/Projects/ds/test/. But I don't want to type cd /[full-path]/...
32
votes
3answers
3k 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 ...
271
votes
2answers
79k views

Difference between nohup, disown and &

What is the difference between $ nohup foo and $ foo & and $ foo & $ disown
35
votes
4answers
36k 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 ...
42
votes
5answers
16k views

When would you use an additional file descriptor?

I know you can create a file descriptor and redirect output to it. e.g. exec 3<> /tmp/foo # open fd 3. echo a >&3 # write to it exec 3>&- # close fd 3. But you can do the same ...
17
votes
1answer
22k 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 EC2_HOME=/home/...
21
votes
3answers
2k 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, ...
54
votes
7answers
13k 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.
24
votes
4answers
10k views

Quoting in ssh $host $FOO and ssh $host “sudo su user -c $FOO” type constructs

I often end up issuing complex commands over ssh; these commands involve piping to awk or perl one-lines, and as a result contain single quotes and $'s. I have neither been able to figure out a hard ...
12
votes
3answers
1k views

Order of redirections

I don't quite understand how the computer reads this command. cat file1 file2 1> file.txt 2>&1 If I understand, 2>&1 simply redirect Standard Error to Standard Output. By that ...
9
votes
2answers
2k views

How can I use $var in a shell brace expansion of a sequence?

I want to use $var in a shell brace expansion with a range, in bash. Simply putting {$var1..$var2} doesn't work, so I went "lateral"... The following works, but it's a bit kludgey. # remove the ...
45
votes
4answers
9k views

What is the difference between a builtin command and one that is not?

Is there any intrinsic difference between a builtin command and another command which can nominally do the same thing? eg. Do builtins get "special" treatement? ... is there less overhead running ...
94
votes
7answers
10k 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?
44
votes
6answers
10k 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 ...
20
votes
6answers
2k 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 ...
52
votes
10answers
46k 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?
37
votes
1answer
3k views

Does 'rm .*' ever delete the parent directory?

The expression .* is expanded by bash to include the current and parent directories: $ ls -la total 2600 drwxrwxrwx 2 terdon terdon 2162688 Sep 10 16:22 . drwxr-xr-x 142 terdon terdon 491520 Sep ...
6
votes
6answers
2k 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" -...
73
votes
7answers
72k views

How do you move all files (including hidden) from one 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 ...
16
votes
7answers
8k views

Using notify-send with cron

I am using Arch Linux with KDE/Awesome WM. I am trying to get notify-send to work with cron. I have tried setting DISPLAY/XAUTHORITY variables, and running notify-send with "sudo -u", all without ...
19
votes
2answers
2k views

What does `:-` mean in a shell script [duplicate]

I saw this in the end of an awesome shell script but I can't understand the login here because I think it's being short-handed for a longer command. spark ${@:-`cat`} This apears at the end of this ...
85
votes
5answers
59k views

How can I send stdout to multiple commands?

There are some commands which filter or act on input, and then pass it along as output, I think usually to stdout - but some commands will just take the stdin and do whatever they do with it, and ...