I am not a Linux guy but stuck in some Script which I have to read for my Project. So can anyone can help me what this command is doing?

shift $(($optind - 1))
  • 3
    As noted below, OPTIND must be in upper case and the '$' inside the parenthesis is optional. – DarkHeart Jul 6 '15 at 23:08

shift $((OPTIND-1)) (note OPTIND is upper case) is normally found immediately after a getopts while loop. $OPTIND is the number of options found by getopts.

As pauljohn32 mentions in the comments, strictly speaking, OPTIND gives the position of the next command line argument.

From the GNU Bash Reference Manual:

getopts optstring name [args]

getopts is used by shell scripts to parse positional parameters. optstring contains the option characters to be recognized; if a character is followed by a colon, the option is expected to have an argument, which should be separated from it by whitespace. The colon (‘:’) and question mark (‘?’) may not be used as option characters. Each time it is invoked, getopts places the next option in the shell variable name, initializing name if it does not exist, and the index of the next argument to be processed into the variable OPTIND. OPTIND is initialized to 1 each time the shell or a shell script is invoked. When an option requires an argument, getopts places that argument into the variable OPTARG. The shell does not reset OPTIND automatically; it must be manually reset between multiple calls to getopts within the same shell invocation if a new set of parameters is to be used.

When the end of options is encountered, getopts exits with a return value greater than zero. OPTIND is set to the index of the first non-option argument, and name is set to ‘?’.

getopts normally parses the positional parameters, but if more arguments are given in args, getopts parses those instead.

shift n
removes n strings from the positional parameters list. Thus shift $((OPTIND-1)) removes all the options that have been parsed by getopts from the parameters list, and so after that point, $1 will refer to the first non-option argument passed to the script.


As mikeserv mentions in the comment, shift $((OPTIND-1)) can be unsafe. To prevent unwanted word-splitting etc, all parameter expansions should be double-quoted. So the safe form for the command is

shift "$((OPTIND-1))"

  • It seems like this will only work right if options all occur prior to any remaining positional arguments. Correct? – Steve Jorgensen Jul 29 '16 at 20:16
  • @SteveJorgensen: Yes, that's correct. OTOH, putting options after non-option arguments goes against sh / bash convention. Generally, the first arguments that doesn't begin with a dash signifies the end of the options, and any subsequent args that begin with a dash are not considered to be options. Not all programs adhere to this convention, but it makes life a lot simpler if you do. :) – PM 2Ring Jul 30 '16 at 7:03
  • @SteveJorgensen: (cont) This topic is discussed briefly in Why do some utilities parse operands before options?. As Gilles' comment to Celada's answer mentions, some programs (like find) might look like they permit options after non-options, but they don't: they have operands that begin with a dash. – PM 2Ring Jul 30 '16 at 7:15
  • Thanks for that info (& the edit) @mosvy That's a pretty unusual IFS, but it's better to be safe than sorry. ;) – PM 2Ring Jul 4 '19 at 12:08
  • @roaima if IFS=0123456789, shift $((OPTIND-1)) (without quotes) will turn into shift "" which will be silently ignored (in ksh) or generate an error (in bash and dash). – mosvy Jul 4 '19 at 13:01

$((...)) just calculates stuff. In your case it takes the value of $optint and substracts 1.

shift removes positional parameters. In your case it removes optint-1 parameters.

For more information have a look at help getopts, help shift, look at man bash for "Arithmetic Expansion", and especially google for getopts.

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