Let's say you have to echo this into a file:


How do you do it?

My actual "line" to echo is a 2048 characters line.

  • 2
    You're planning to type echo 2048 random nonsense chars here? I suspect it comes from a file or is generated somehow, yes? – mikeserv Jun 12 '15 at 15:55
  • @mikeserv , yes. Actually I was trying to make gpg read the passphrase from a file descriptor. Didn't know there was an option for that. My initial "stupid" idea was to echo the passphrase by using an alias in .bash_aliases. – Issam2204 Jun 13 '15 at 17:17
  • Not stupid, just the wrong question. – mikeserv Jun 13 '15 at 17:26

Just put it in single quotes:

echo 'RZW"a4k6[)b!^"%*X6Evf' > file

But if you have any single quotes in the string you need to escape each of those in double quotes ("'") and "glue" the result together like this:

echo 'text without single quotes'"'"'and other text without single quote'

For arbitrary content, you can also use:

cat << 'EOF' > file

(as long as that content doesn't contain lines that consist of exactly EOF, in which case you can use a different delimiter).

To include NUL characters (^@ usually entered with Ctrl+VCtrl+Space or Ctrl+VCtrl+@), the above will only work with zsh. With other shells (and zsh), you can do:

cat > file

Enter the text and hit Ctrl+D on an empty line (or Ctrl-D twice if you want to include a non-terminated line) when finished.

Another approach to deal with arbitrary, potentially binary data is to use things like uuencode or base64:

For instance:

 printf '\0\1\2\3' > file

Can be written:

uudecode << 'EOF'
begin 644 file

(that output being obtained by running uuencode file < some-file where some-file contains that particular content).


I would use a "here document".

cat >my_file <<__EOF__

When the shell sees the <<foo syntax, it remembers what foo is and continues reading until it sees foo on a line by itself. Then it passes everything it read (except for foo) to the program's standard input.

  • 4
    That variant (with the delimiter not quoted) still has issues with $, backtick and backslash. – Stéphane Chazelas Jun 12 '15 at 15:59

To generate something to use as a command line argument, put it into a variable (or something else that you can ensure it gets into a word — then a single argument that gets passed to printf), then let bash/ksh93 do the rest.

# Reading from stdin
# pbpaste | bash -c '
printf echo\ %q\\n "$(cat)"
# ' | pbcopy
# Then paste it into your script and echo happily.
# Maybe I should use the `read' builtin instead..
  • Also in zsh. Note that it removes all trailing newline characters and adds one. It won't work with NUL characters except with zsh. You probably don't want to use echo here as you'll have trouble with values like -n/-e or containing backslash depending on the echo implementation or the environment. – Stéphane Chazelas Jun 15 '15 at 9:34

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.