I have a Bash script I was trying to make to help me run a rather complex command with small changes that it would ask me about through echo and read.

I have found solutions to force it to run a terminal to execute the command, but I'm not interested in that. What I would like it to do is, if I space out and just hit Enter on it in Nautilus (making it run with Run Software), it'll just gently pop up a notification saying "Please run this from a terminal."

I can get the popup to happen -- as in I know the command -- but I can't get the Bash script to tell if it's being run inside a terminal or not, it seems to always think so. Is it even possible?



-t fd  
    True if file descriptor fd is open and refers to a terminal.

Assuming fd 1 is standard out, if [ -t 1 ]; then should work for you. The Advanced Shell Scripting Guide claims that -t used this way will fail over ssh, and that the test (using stdin, not stdout) should therefore be:

if [[ -t 0 || -p /dev/stdin ]]

-p tests if a file exists and is a named pipe. However, I'd note experientially this is not true for me: -p /dev/stdin fails for both normal terminals and ssh sessions whereas if [ -t 0 ] (or -t 1) works in both cases (see also Gilles comments below about issues in that section of the Advanced Shell Scripting Guide).

If the primary issue is a specialized context from which you wish to call the script to behave in a way appropriate to that context, you can sidestep all these technicalities and save your self some fuss by using a wrapper and a custom variable:



Call this live_script.sh or whatever and double click that instead. You could of course accomplish the same thing with command line arguments, but a wrapper would still be needed to make point and click in a GUI file browser work.

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    this is the correct answer - it is also how POSIX says a shell should detect if it is interactive or not. – mikeserv Oct 18 '14 at 15:26
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    @DanielAmaya - if you redirect input then the script is not being run on a terminal. The question is how to detect if the script is being run on a terminal. – mikeserv Oct 18 '14 at 16:02
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    Are you sure about the use of || within [ … ] like that? If you use [[ … ]] then it would be fine, but normally the || is used to separate commands, and [ -t 0 is an incorrect invocation of [ because its last ] is missing. There typically isn't a command -p either. I agree with testing for a terminal; that's probably the way to do it. It's just the syntax I'm concerned about. – Jonathan Leffler Oct 18 '14 at 16:14
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    @JonathanLeffler Right; that should produce a syntax error, since the shell operator || is seen before the required final ] argument to [. – chepner Oct 18 '14 at 17:44
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    That section from the Advanced Bash-Scripting Guide has several errors. PS1 is not a reliable test to tell whether the shell is interactive. “If a script needs to test whether it is running in an interactive shell” is also confusing: it should be if some code needs to test — a script is usually not running in an interactive shell (but it can be, if it's sourced). Testing for i in $- is the correct way to test if the shell is interactive. Testing -t 0 or -t 2 is the correct way to tell if the script is running in a terminal, which is different from being interactive. – Gilles Oct 18 '14 at 20:37

Use the bash $SHLVL variable to detect the level of shell nesting. In a script run 'raw' by double-clicking it will be 1, in a script running within a terminal it will be 2.

if (( SHLVL < 2 )) ; then
    echo "Please run this from a terminal."
    read -p "Press <Enter> to close this window"
    exit 1
# rest of script

Another, using the bash options set internal variable, $-.

From .bashrc,

# If not running interactively, don't do anything
case $- in
    *i*) ;;
    *) return;;
  • an interactive shell isnt necessarily connected to a terminal. while one started with that connection is automatically started interactive, this also is possible: cmd | sh -i | cmd. – mikeserv Oct 18 '14 at 15:30
  • This code is being executed in a script. It won't be interactive, even if it is running in a terminal. – Gilles Oct 18 '14 at 20:29

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