I've to verify the length of variable read (my script limit to five the characters inserted), I think about something like this:

read string
echo $check
if [ $check -ge 5 ]; then echo "error" ; exit
else echo "done"

is there a more "elegant" solution?

  • 1
    Your script works correctly in standard POSIX /bin/sh. You should consider changing the shebang line to #!/bin/sh so that it will be more portable and run in environments where bash isn't available. Plus, /bin/sh might be a more lightweight shell like dash which isn't burdened with features meant for interactive use.
    – Celada
    Jul 17, 2014 at 22:15
  • @Celada, true though in this case, dash's ${#string} would give you the length in number of bytes instead of characters. Apr 20, 2017 at 16:28

2 Answers 2


More elegant? No

Shorter? Yes :)

read string
if [ ${#string} -ge 5 ]; then echo "error" ; exit
else echo "done"

And if you have no problem on trading more elegance in favor of being shorter, you can have a script with 2 lines less:

read string
[ ${#string} -ge 5 ] && echo "error" || echo "done"

You could use double brackets if you think it is safer. Explanation here.


A Bourne-compatible alternative (${#string} is POSIX but not Bourne (not that you're likely to ever come across a Bourne shell these days)):

case $string in
  ?????*) echo >&2 Too long; exit 1;;
       *) echo OK

Note that for both ${#string} and ????, whether it will be the number of bytes or characters will depend on the shell. Generally (and it's required by POSIX), it is the number of characters. But for some shells like dash that are not multi-byte aware, it will be bytes instead.

With mksh, you need set -o utf8-mode (in UTF-8 locales) for it to understand multi-byte characters:

$ string=€€€ bash -c 'echo "${#string}"'
$ string=€€€ dash -c 'echo "${#string}"'
$ string=€€€ mksh -c 'echo "${#string}"'
$ string=€€€ mksh -o utf8-mode -c 'echo "${#string}"'
$ locale charmap
  • off topic, but is echo Too long different under the hood from echo 'Too long'
    – Zombo
    Apr 20, 2017 at 16:38
  • And, if you will just print when it's "too long", i can compact even more on my if option :)
    – user34720
    Apr 20, 2017 at 16:40
  • 2
    @StevenPenny, echo Too long passes two arguments (Too and long) to echo which echo outputs separated by a space (and followed by a newline), while in echo 'Too long', we pass one Too long argument to echo which it displays following by a newline. So it's functionnaly equivalent. Apr 20, 2017 at 16:40

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