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This question already has an answer here:

Are the concepts of login/non-login shells the same as the concepts of non-interactive/interactive shells (respectively)?

Or are the concepts orthogonal yielding four different combinations?

I am trying to get a clear picture of which .bashrc, .bash_profile scripts get sourced under various circumstances and I find that articles sometimes use these concepts interchangeably.

marked as duplicate by jasonwryan, Ramesh, jimmij, Anthon, slm Nov 28 '14 at 23:23

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

  • Specifically focusing on which scripts are sourced makes this a worthwhile question.. could the title be edited? – KCD Jul 19 '18 at 1:51
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  • login shell: A login shell logs you into the system as a specific user, necessary for this is a username and password. When you hit ctrl+alt+F1 to login into a virtual terminal you get after successful login: a login shell (that is interactive). Sourced files:

    • /etc/profile and ~/.profile for Bourne compatible shells (and /etc/profile.d/*)
    • ~/.bash_profile for bash
    • /etc/zprofile and ~/.zprofile for zsh
    • /etc/csh.login and ~/.login for csh
  • non-login shell: A shell that is executed without logging in, necessary for this is a current logged in user. When you open a graphic terminal in gnome it is a non-login (interactive) shell. Sourced files:

    • /etc/bashrc and ~/.bashrc for bash
  • interactive shell: A shell (login or non-login) where you can interactively type or interrupt commands. For example a gnome terminal (non-login) or a virtual terminal (login). In an interactive shell the prompt variable must be set ($PS1). Sourced files:

    • /etc/profile and ~/.profile
    • /etc/bashrc or /etc/bash.bashrc for bash
  • non-interactive shell: A (sub)shell that is probably run from an automated process you will see neither input nor output when the calling process don't handle it. That shell is normally a non-login shell, because the calling user has logged in already. A shell running a script is always a non-interactive shell, but the script can emulate an interactive shell by prompting the user to input values. Sourced files:

    • /etc/bashrc or /etc/bash.bashrc for bash (but, mostly you see this at the beginning of the script: [ -z "$PS1" ] && return. That means don't do anything if it's a non-interactive shell).
    • depending on shell; some of them read the file in the $ENV variable.
  • Nice explanation, but I still don't know why "That shell is normally a non-login shell, because the calling user has logged in already"? – L_K Jun 20 '17 at 2:41
  • Is there an easy way to add scripts to be run in non-interactive shells? – ceztko Jun 18 '18 at 10:36
  • Nothing clean, but see superuser.com/q/1205681/81584 – KCD Jul 19 '18 at 1:54

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