I wanted to make a simple C program to change to my project directory. Its content is as follows:

#include <unistd.h>
int main()
    return 0;

I compiled it with following command (pro.c is its file name):

gcc pro.c -o /usr/local/bin/pro

There were no errors nor warnings. But when I run it, it does not change directory. Why?

  • 1
    You could use an alias instead - alias proj='cd ~/enedil/projects/algo' – Michael Durrant Jul 8 '14 at 11:46
  • @MichaelDurrant oh, you meant cd ~/projects/algo? It is an idea! – enedil Jul 8 '14 at 11:48
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    This is by design! – Thorbjørn Ravn Andersen Jul 8 '14 at 16:01

Your program does exactly what you tell it to do: it changes the working directory for itself to /home/enedil/projects/algo. But once it exits, the shell's working directory is restored.

I guess what you want to achieve is to change the working directory of the parent process, i.e. the shell, without resorting to a simple cd. There is a method, but as its author says: don't do it.

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    Nitpick, but the shell's working directory isn't restored, because it never changed. The shell is simply a process, just like the program is. Each program has it's own working directory. – Patrick Jul 8 '14 at 12:09
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    @Patrick, true. Conceptually more accurate would be your working directory is restored, in that your process is "restored" (is active in the foreground). – Paul Draper Jul 8 '14 at 15:29

The current working directory is local to the process. So, what you want is not possible.

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You can also use the CDPATH environmental variable. As explained in man bash:

   CDPATH The search path for the cd command.  This is  a  colon-separated
          list  of  directories  in  which the shell looks for destination
          directories specified by the cd  command.   A  sample  value  is

So, for example, you could add this line to your ~/.profile:


You can now run cd projects from any directory and move to ~/projects.

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To do this for the shell, use the source command (aliased to .). It will run the application in the context of the current shell rather than creating a new shell context. This is how you can set environment variables as well. If you notice all of the startup scripts in /etc/rc.d or /etc/init.d, you will see lots of scripts that are included by other scripts with the command

. /etc/init.d/rcvars

The . causes the script /etc/init.d/rcvars so that anything it changes persists in the current environment.

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  • 2
    You can't run a C program this way, only a shell script. – John Kugelman Jul 9 '14 at 3:13

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