The following link recommends against using loops in shells.

bash variables in for loop range

Why is this? Here is an example loop I just happened to be looking at when I came across that answer:

find /etc/postinstall -name '*.sh' | while read script
  echo Running $script ...
  mv $script $script.done

2 Answers 2


Two application types come to my mind where shell loops are not considered to be the best approach. The first is data processing; many tools (like sed, awk, perl, etc.) do the loop implicitly and much more performant. The second is (like in your sample code), where some code is executed for a set of files, where find with the -exec switch can also already execute commands (also a shell) with less problems and overhead. There are probably more cases, but those two mentioned should already be enlightening. That said; shell loops are not inherently bad, or somesuch. Just take other options (like the two mentioned) into your consideration.

  • @StevenPenny find /etc/postinstall -name '*.sh' -exec bash -c 'echo Runing {} ...; "{}" ; mv "{}" "{}.done"' \;
    – Costas
    Apr 25, 2015 at 22:38
  • 1
    @Costas, that would run one bash per file and embed {} in the code is a lot worse practise than using loops. I'd still use a loop like -exec sh -c 'for script do...' sh {} + here or (GNUly): find ... -printf 'Executing %f\n' -exec {} \; -exec mv {} {}.done \; (which would run the mv only if the script succeeds). Apr 26, 2015 at 8:43
  • @StéphaneChazelas - find's probably overkill - recursing a tree and executing unknown scripts - likely as root - is crazy. If find called a script which altered the mount tree it could go really bad. And renaming files in /etc should be avoided. As I see it the op should handle only files named to some expected conformity - like the common 1-99 prefixes - and just dot each in the order theyre globbed in a for loop - each in its own subshell if need be. I believe that's something like what he intends to do now anyway.
    – mikeserv
    Apr 26, 2015 at 10:44

Shell is a terrible programing language, but it is very handy. I write a lot of shell scripts, and on occasion I use loops. I have a script that takes a couple hours to execute. It needs rewritten in something else. If you have a loop in your shell script it is an indicator that it might be time to start thinking about rewriting that script before it becomes completely unmanageable.

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