I have a (bash) script I would like to run on two different computers, one is OpenBSD with the program sha256, the other is Ubuntu with sha256sum. What is the best/standard practice to allow the script to handle both cases?

Note that for sha256 vs sha256sum, the other options into the program wouldn't need to be change, but for a different choice of programs, such as wget vs. curl, the other parameters would change too (e.g. wget vs. curl -O). Therefore, the best answer would allow different command line parameters as well depending on which program is available.

One way of fixing the program is to use a variable that changes depending on the exit status of command, hash, or type, as per this SO question


command -v "$SHA_PROGRAM"
# If the exit status of command is nonzero, try something else 
if [ "$?" -ne "0" ]; then
    command -v "sha256sum"
    if [ "$?" -ne "0" ]; then
        printf "This program requires a sha256 hashing program, please install one\n" 1>&2
        exit 1

But, that way seems a little verbose to me, not to mention the nested if-statement issue.

It could be generalized a bit by using an array of possible commands:

declare -a POSSIBLE_COMMANDS=("sha256" "sha256sum")
    command -v "$OPT"
    # if the exit status of command is zero, set the command variable and exit the loop
    if [ "$?" -eq "0" ]; then

# if the variable is still empty, exit with an error    
if [ -z "$SHA_PROGRAM" ]; then
    printf "This program requires a sha256 program. Aborting\n" 1>&2
    exit 1


That way would work too I believe, but I am hoping to get advice from a more experienced, better bash programmer, in case I am missing some better solution (perhaps a clever use of the || operator?).

  • If both platforms have openssl installed, you can just use openssl sha256 in both places and not worry about picking an os-specific program. – larsks Aug 13 '15 at 2:27
  • I realized after writing this question, this question may be better suited for stack overflow. Should I move it? – hilcharge Aug 13 '15 at 2:29
  • openssl sha256 looks good for generating the hash. Is there a related way to check a file with the hashes listed in it. I.e. equivalent to sha256 -c FILE? – hilcharge Aug 13 '15 at 2:34
  • I don't believe openssl provides such an option. – larsks Aug 13 '15 at 2:43
  • for $OPT in ... won't work, remove $. And it's superfluous to use $? just for checking success/failure, simply write if command -v "$OPT"; then. – yaegashi Aug 13 '15 at 2:48

As per @yaegashi's comment, the if command -v ...; then ... seems to hit the nail on the head, simple and clear.


# The SHA_CMD variable can be used to store the appropriate command for later use
if command -v sha256; then
elif command -v sha256sum; then 
    printf "This program requires a a sha256 program installed\n" 1>&2
    exit 1
"$SHA_CMD" "$MY_FILE" > "$MY_FILE.sha"
# Note: if any of the possible sha commands had command line parameters, then the quotes need to be removed from around $SHA_CMD

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