How can I get the last executed command from bash? I know that !!:p prints the last command, but it seems I can't use that anywhere except the bash prompt. I tried echo !!:p but it prints

~/Downloads$ pwd
~/Downloads$ echo !!:p
echo pwd

I want to use this inside the PROMPT_COMMAND variable so I need to get it as a string so I can just print it out. Is there an easy way to do this? Am I looking in the wrong place?

I guess I'm not clear. I need to store the last command run so I can re-display it after the output and before the next prompt. For example this is what I want the output to look like:

~/Downloads$ pwd


I'm doing this my changing my prompt in my .bashrc file

PROMPT_COMMAND='echo -en "\033[38;5;2m"!!:p"\033[0m\n"'

But !!:p only works correctly from the bash prompt. So how can I store the last command so that I can reprint it later?

  • It's not clear what you mean by 'Printing(saving)'. Where do you want the command saved to? Commented Oct 15, 2010 at 23:31

1 Answer 1


You can access the just-executed command line with the history built-in. (I have no idea why history 1 prints the just-executed command line but fc -nl -1 prints the previous commmand, as does fc -nl 0.)

PROMPT_COMMAND='echo -en "\033[38;5;2m"; history 1; echo -en "\033[0m\n"'

This prints a number before the command text. Here's a version that removes the number. (It may be incorrect if you go beyond 99999 history lines, I don't know how bash formats the number then.)

prompt_function () {
  local prompt_history="$(history 1)"
  echo -En $'\033[38;5;2m'"$prompt_history"$'\033[0m\n'

(Note that echo -en ..."$prompt_history"... would expand backslashes in the command line, so I use echo -E and let the shell expansion generate the control characters with $''.).

  • Cool, thanks. I can't say I understand 100% of why exactly that works, but it does =]
    – Falmarri
    Commented Oct 16, 2010 at 0:26
  • the $'\033[38;5;2m' and $'\033[0m\n' parts are ANSI escape codes. The first one colors the contents of $prompt_history and the second resets the color to your terminals default. Commented Oct 16, 2010 at 0:50
  • I guess I should have clarified. What exactly is the reason for having to store prompt_history twice? Why does it need first the $() and then the {:7}? I think it has to do with executing the command every time instead of caching, but what are the rules on that? Is that why it's written how it is?
    – Falmarri
    Commented Oct 16, 2010 at 8:45
  • @Falmarri: history 1 prints a number before the command. As far as I know you can't directly perform string manipulation like ${:7} on the result of a command substitution in bash, hence the temporary variable. See my revised answer. Commented Oct 16, 2010 at 9:49
  • Sorry one more question. I'm not an expert in bash (yet), can you quickly explain the quotes in your echo? For example why is the first $ outside the quotes, and why is the ascii control character in single quotes?
    – Falmarri
    Commented Oct 16, 2010 at 19:28

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