Let's say I send two jobs to the background.

$ sleep 77 &
$ sleep 99 &

Then I check my jobs

$ jobs
> [1]  - running    sleep 77
> [2]  + running    sleep 99

Can I control what job number gets assigned to these jobs? I'm not sure if I'm using the right terminology here, I'm talking about the numbers denoted as [1] and [2] in the example before.

The use case is the following: I need a job that renews my credentials every now and then, but most of the time it is asleep. I wrote a function that is automatically sent to the background if called. I do this deliberately since I want to have control over this process, i.e. I explicitly want to have it as a job.

when I call the function and there are no other jobs, it gets the job number [2]. (I assume [1] would be the subprocess calling the function.) This is confusing, since when I later send job1 to the background, it gets the job number [1], but job2 gets the job number [3]. I would prefer if I could assign a large number to my sleeping function by hand, e.g. something like [99]. Is this possible? Either in bash or zsh?

  • do you need to bring the job to the foreground to control it, or do you just need to stop and restart it, or to send it some messages or such?
    – ilkkachu
    Jan 1 '18 at 20:38
  • @ilkkachu Just stop and restart. Mostly I do not interact with it at all.
    – pfnuesel
    Jan 1 '18 at 20:40

No, you can't specify the job number assigned to a backgrounded process.

You can, however, get the PID of the most recently backgrounded process with $! - which is far more useful.


$ sleep 77 &
[5] 21959
$ job1=$!

$ sleep 99 &
[6] 21960
$ job2=$!

$ echo job1=$job1 job2=$job2
job1=21959 job2=21960

and, later (but before the first job finishes):

$ kill "$job1"
[1]-  Terminated              sleep 77

see man bash and search for JOB CONTROL for more details about backgrounds jobs.

(note: job control is pretty much the same in all bourne-style shells - but bash has, by far, the best man page documentation about it)

  • PS: by "pretty much the same", I mean I can't recall any differences between the various alternative shells, but don't have time to thoroughly research it right now. I'm about 99.99% confident that there aren't even any minor differences, let alone significant ones, but there's always the chance I've forgotten something.
    – cas
    Jan 2 '18 at 5:31

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