77

Is there a Linux script / application which, instead of deleting files, moves them to a special “trash” location? I’d like this as a replacement for rm (maybe even aliasing the latter; there are pros and cons for that).

By “trash” I mean a special folder. A single mv "$@" ~/.trash is a first step, but ideally this should also handle trashing several files of the same name without overwriting older trashed files, and allow to restore files to their original location with a simple command (a kind of “undo”). Furthermore, it’d be nice if the trash was automatically emptied on reboot (or a similar mechanism to prevent endless growth).

Partial solutions for this exist, but the “restore” action in particular isn’t trivial. Are there any existing solutions for this which don’t rely on a trash system from a graphical shell?

(As an aside, there have been endless discussions whether this approach is justified, rather than using frequent backups and VCS. While those discussions have a point, I believe there’s still a niche for my request.)

8
  • 7
    This may be related to the SuperUser question Two commands to move files to trash. What's the difference?. I've used gvfs-trash in the past, but never had a need to restore from the command-line until you sparked my curiosity. The answer to the linked question may be of help.
    – ephsmith
    Commented Jul 10, 2012 at 23:02
  • 1
    @ephsmith Thanks, good link. The problem with those approaches though is that they are bound to specific desktop shell (what’s the correct term here?) implementations, something which I want to avoid. Commented Jul 11, 2012 at 9:32
  • 2
    Is moving files from any filesystem to your ~ intentional? Because some day you might be deleting a 4GB iso image residing on a dir mounted with sshfs from a really remote server. Commented Jul 11, 2012 at 11:40
  • 5
    Do whatever you want such as the solutions outlined in the answers below, but don't name it rm. As pointed out by others, renaming/repurposing standard commands leaves you vulnerable when you habitually try to use them on other systems, but it also will cause problems for anyone else (perhaps assisting you) using your system/account when unexpected results occur.
    – Joe
    Commented Jul 14, 2012 at 20:43
  • 2
    Some perspective, 10 years after asking this question: I never ended up using any of the solutions. I just continued using rm and, yes, I occasionally delete the wrong files by accident. Thanks to automatic backups this usually hasn’t been an issue (there are rare exceptions when working on scratch space, but by definition these files aren’t important … at least, ideally). Commented Aug 19, 2022 at 6:55

12 Answers 12

53

There is a specification (draft) for Trash on freedesktop.org. It is apparently what is usually implemented by desktop environments.

A commandline implementation would be trash-cli. Without having had a closer look, it seems to provide the funtionality you want. If not, tell us in how far this is only a partial solution.

As far as using any program as replacement/alias for rm is concerned, there are good reasons not to do that. Most important for me are:

  • The program would need to understand/handle all of rm's options and act accordingly
  • It has the risk of getting used to the semantics of your "new rm" and performing commands with fatal consequences when working on other people's systems
7
  • There is also libtrash which moves all deleted files automatically to the trash via LD_PRELOAD (but it seems to have several bugs). Autotrash helps to clean the trash in an easy way.
    – jofel
    Commented Jul 11, 2012 at 8:47
  • 1
    I’m wondering about the getting-in-the-habit-of-using-rm thingy. I’m already in the habit, unfortunately. Commented Jul 11, 2012 at 9:43
  • 4
    @KonradRudolph: I meant that one gets used to the fact that rm (the replaced one) does not really delete anything, so that one is less careful, as a restore is always possible. Of course, using rm itself is not a bad thing, nor is getting used to it.
    – zpea
    Commented Jul 11, 2012 at 10:33
  • 5
    I’ve ended up using this solution, and disabling rm so I can’t use it accidentally (there’s still /bin/rm in case I really need it). Commented Sep 5, 2012 at 8:16
  • 1
    @KonradRudolph is it safe to disable rm? I think some scripts relying on it could fail.
    – baptx
    Commented May 1, 2020 at 16:01
32

The previous answers mention commands trash-cli and rmtrash. Neither of those are found by default on Ubuntu 18.04, but the command gio is. Commanding gio help trash outputs:

Usage:
  gio trash [OPTION…] [LOCATION...]

Move files or directories to the trash.

Options:
  -f, --force     Ignore nonexistent files, never prompt
  --empty         Empty the trash

I tested using gio trash FILENAME on the command line, and it works just like I'd selected the file in the file browser and clicked the DEL button: the file is moved to the desktop's Trash folder. (The command doesn't prompt for confirmation even though I did not use the -f option.)

Deleting files this way is reversible, while being more convenient than redefining rm to be rm -i for safety and having to confirm each deletion, which still leaves you out of luck if you accidentally confirm a deletion you shouldn't have.

I added alias tt='gio trash' to my alias definitions file; tt is a mnemonic for "to trash".

Added on edit on 2018-06-27: On server machines, there is no equivalent of a trash directory. I've written the following Bash script that does the job; on desktop machines, it uses gio trash, and on other machines, moves the file(s) given as parameter(s) to a trash directory it creates. The script is tested to work; I use it all the time myself. Script updated on 2024-04-12.

#!/bin/bash

# move_to_trash
#
# Teemu Leisti 2024-04-12
#
# USAGE:
#
#   Move the file(s) given as argument(s) to the trash directory, if they are
#   not already there.
#
# RATIONALE:
#
#   The script is intended as a command-line equivalent of deleting a file or
#   directory from a graphical file manager. On hosts that implement the
#   FreeDesktop.org specification on trash directories (hereon called "the trash
#   specification"; see
#   https://specifications.freedesktop.org/trash-spec/trashspec-latest.html),
#   that action moves the target file(s) to a built-in trash directory, and that
#   is exactly what this script does.
#
#   On other hosts, this script uses a custom trash directory (~/.Trash/). The
#   analogy of moving a file to trash is not perfect, as the script does not
#   offer the functionalities of restoring a trashed file to its original
#   location or emptying the trash directory. Rather, it offers an alternative
#   to the 'rm' command, thereby giving the user the peace of mind that they can
#   still undo an unintended deletion before emptying the custom trash
#   directory.
#
# IMPLEMENTATION:
#
#   To determine whether it's running on a host that implements the trash
#   specification, the script tests for the existence of (a) the gio command and
#   (b) either directory $XDG_DATA_HOME/Trash/, or, if that environment variable
#   hasn't bee set, of directory ~/.local/share/Trash/. If the test yields true,
#   the script relies on calling 'gio trash'.
#
#   On other hosts:
#     - There is no built-in trash directory, so the script creates a custom
#       directory ~/.Trash/, unless it already exists. (The script aborts if
#       there is an existing non-directory ~/.Trash.)
#     - The script appends a millisecond-resolution timestamp to all the files
#       it moves to the custom trash directory, to both inform the user of the
#       time of the trashing, and to avoid overwrites.
#     - The user will have to perform an undo by commanding 'mv' on a file or
#       directory moved to ~/.Trash/.
#     - The user will have to empty the custom trash directory by commanding:
#           rm -rf ~/.Trash/* ~/.Trash/.*
#
#   The script will not choke on a nonexistent file. It outputs the final
#   disposition of each filename argument: does not exist, was already in trash,
#   or was moved to trash.
#
# COPYRIGHT WAIVER:
#
#   The author dedicates this Bash script to the public domain by waiving all of
#   their rights to the work worldwide under copyright law, including all
#   related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law. You can copy,
#   modify, distribute, and perform the script, even for commercial purposes,
#   all without asking for permission.

if [ -z "$XDG_DATA_HOME" ] ; then
    xdg_trash_directory=$(realpath ~/.local/share/Trash/)
else
    xdg_trash_directory=$(realpath $XDG_DATA_HOME/Trash/)
fi

gio_command_exists=0
if $(command -v gio > /dev/null 2>&1) ; then
    gio_command_exists=1
fi

host_implements_trash_specification=0
if [[ -d "${xdg_trash_directory}" ]] && (( gio_command_exists == 1 )) ; then
    # Executing on a host that implements the trash specification.
    host_implements_trash_specification=1
    trash_directory="${xdg_trash_directory}"
else
    # Executing on other host, so attempt to use a custom trash directory.
    trash_directory=$(realpath ~/.Trash)
    if [[ -e "${trash_directory}" ]] ; then
        # It exists.
        if [[ ! -d "${trash_directory}" ]] ; then
            # But is not a directory, so abort.
            echo "Error: ${trash_directory} exists, but is not a directory."
            exit 1
        fi
    else
        # It does not exists, so create it.
        mkdir "${trash_directory}"
        echo "Created directory ${trash_directory}"
    fi
fi

# Deal with all filenames (a concept that covers names of both files and
# directories) given as arguments.
for file in "$@" ; do
    file_to_be_trashed=$(realpath -- "${file}")
    file_basename=$(basename -- "${file_to_be_trashed}")
    if [[ ! -e ${file_to_be_trashed} ]] ; then
        echo "does not exist:   ${file_to_be_trashed}"
    elif [[ "${file_to_be_trashed}" == "${trash_directory}"* ]] ; then
        echo "already in trash: ${file_to_be_trashed}"
    else
        # ${file_to_be_trashed} exists and is not yet in the trash directory,
        # so move it there.
        if (( host_implements_trash_specification == 1 )) ; then
            gio trash "${file_to_be_trashed}"
        else
            # Move the file to the custom trash directory, with a new name that
            # appends a millisecond-resolution timestamp to the original.
            head="${trash_directory}/${file_basename}"_TRASHED_ON_
            move_file_to="${head}$(date '+%Y-%m-%d_AT_%H-%M-%S.%3N')"
            while [[ -e "${move_file_to}" ]] ; do
                # Generate a new name with a new timestamp, as the previously
                # generated one denoted an existing file or directory. It's very
                # unlikely that this loop needs to be executed even once.
                move_file_to="${head}$(date '+%Y-%m-%d_AT_%H-%M-%S.%3N')"
            done
            # There is no file or directory named ${move_file_to}, so
            # we can use it as the move target.
            /bin/mv "${file_to_be_trashed}" "${move_file_to}"
        fi
        echo "moved to trash:   ${file_to_be_trashed}"
    fi
done
1
  • 1
    Thanks. Also both Alma and Rocky Linux have gio trash command
    – Winand
    Commented Jun 3 at 8:31
13

Trash-cli is a linux application that can be installed using apt-get in Ubuntu or yum in Fedora. Using the command trash listOfFiles will move the specified into your trash bin.

1
6

It's a bad idea. Change the habit instead. Here's how:

See this answer in the Apple community: https://apple.stackexchange.com/questions/17622/how-can-i-make-rm-move-files-to-the-trash-can

The answer basically says it's a bad idea because it does not change the bad habit of using rm. To change that habit use the following. I adjusted it for linux bash:

  • Add this line to ~/.bashrc:

      alias rm="echo Use the full path i.e. '/bin/rm', consider using trash"
    
  • Install trash-cli with apt install trash-cli and use trash command from now on.

This causes your habit to do rm to go away. And every time you enter rm it shows the statement above. It's good to note that trash can also move the directory.

1
  • Given all of the caveats of aliasing rm, this is the best answer. Stop using rm directly except only when you really want to
    – ejkitchen
    Commented Nov 1, 2022 at 15:58
5

Start by defining a move_to_trash function:

move_to_trash () {
    mv "$@" ~/.trash
}

Then alias rm to that:

alias rm='move_to_trash'

You can always call old rm by escaping it with a backslash, like this: \rm.

I don't know how to make the trash directory empty on reboot (depending on your system, you may have to look into the rc* scripts), but it could also be worthwhile to create a cron task that empties the directory periodically.

7
  • 2
    Unfortunately, that was the easy part … :/ Commented Jul 10, 2012 at 22:11
  • This script could also create a text file in a hidden directory for each file which contains the directory it was in. A restore script could read the old location and move it back.
    – ephsmith
    Commented Jul 10, 2012 at 22:20
  • 1
    This also has a hazard of multiple deleted files with the same name would collide in the trash directory, and only the last one "deleted" would survive to be able to be recovered.
    – killermist
    Commented Jul 10, 2012 at 23:05
  • @killermist, yes. Of course one would need to do something additional with the move command. Name the "trashed" file whatever you want and keep the original path :| This all screams "why re-create the wheel". There are existing solutions to this problem.
    – ephsmith
    Commented Jul 11, 2012 at 0:47
  • 1
    it overwrite existing file with same name
    – daisy
    Commented Jul 11, 2012 at 1:22
4

Here's a quick and dirty trash system that copes with name clashes and even allows multiple deleted files on the same path as long as you don't delete more than one file per second.

Warning: I typed this code directly into my browser. It's probably broken. Don't use it on production data.

trash_root=~/.trash
mkdir "$trash_root"
newline='
'
trash () (
  time=$(date +%Y%m%d%H%M%S)
  for path; do
    case $path in /*) :;; *) path=$PWD/$path;; esac
    mkdir "$trash_root${path%/*}"
    case ${path##*/} in
      ?*.*) ext="${path##*.}"; ext="${ext##*$newline}";;
      *) ext="";;
    esac
    metadata="Data: $hash.$ext
Date: $time
Path: $path
"
    hash=$(printf %s "$metadata" | sha1sum)
    printf %s "$metadata" "$trash_root/$hash-$time-metadata"
    mv "$path" "$trash_root/$hash.$ext"
  done
)

untrash () (
  IFS='
  '
  root=$PWD
  cd "$trash_root" || return 2
  err=0
  for path; do
    if [ -e "$path" ]; then
      echo 1>&2 "Not even attempting to untrash $path over an existing file"
      if [ $err -gt 2 ]; then err=2; fi
      continue
    fi
    case $path in /*) :;; *) path=$root/$path;; esac 
    if metadata=$(grep -l -F -x "Path: $path" *-metadata |
                  sort -t - -k 2 | tail -n 1); then
      mv "${metadata%%-*}".* "$path"
    else
      echo 1>&2 "$path: no such deleted file"
      if [ $err -gt 1 ]; then err=1; fi
    fi
  done
  return $err
)

Known issues:

  • Doesn't cope gracefully if you try to delete the same file several times concurrently.
  • The trash directory may become huge, the files should be dispatched into subdirectories based on the first few digits of the hash.
  • trash should cope with newlines in file names, but untrash doesn't because it relies on grep and the newlines are not escaped in the metadata file.
4

There's a little utility called rmtrash which does this.

It doesn't seem to respond to params like -r or -f (it appears to essentially just be moving the file/directory to the ~/.Trash directory), but it won't override files with the same name (it appends "Copy" to like-named files/directories).

To install with brew

brew install rmtrash
alias rm='rmtrash' >> ~/.bashrc
1
2

You can use my del:

http://fex.belwue.de/fstools/del.html

del moves files in a .del/ subdirectory (and back)

usage: del [-v] [-u] file(s)
       del [-v] -p [-r] [-d days] [directory]
       del [-v] -l
options: -v   verbose mode
         -u   undelete file(s)
         -p   purge deleted files [older than -d days]
         -r   recursive (all subdirectories)
         -l   list deleted files
examples: del *.tmp         # delete all *.tmp files
          del -u project.pl # undelete project.pl
          del -vprd 2       # verbose purge deleted files older than 2 days
1

I am testing this very simple alternative, which creates a date versioned ~/.trash for me.

I belive it doesn't have the (really valid) problems mentioned by the accepted answer:

The program would need to understand/handle all of rm's options and act accordingly

You simply use rm something. Doesn't need to pass any flags. If you do, say, run rm -rf, it will ignore the r, as mv doesn't support it and the f won't really make a difference, as the the ~/.trash is date versioned.

It has the risk of getting used to the semantics of your "new rm" and performing commands with fatal consequences when working on other people's systems

Like I said, the new semantics would end up being me running rm something. If I go back to using this in other machines, it will only work for files. For folders it will give the usual "you are missing -r" type of error.

move_to_trash() {
  local trash_dir
  trash_dir="${HOME}/.trash"

  if [ ! -d "${trash_dir}" ]; then
    echo "Trash directory doesn't exist. Creating..."
    mkdir "${trash_dir}"
    echo "Created!"
  fi

  local new_dir_name
  new_dir_name="${trash_dir}/$(date +%Y-%m-%d_%H-%M-%S)/"
  mkdir "${new_dir_name}"

  echo "Moving to: ${new_dir_name}"
  mv "$@" ${new_dir_name}
  echo 'Done!'
}

alias really-rm="/bin/rm"
alias rm="move_to_trash"
2
  • does it work for rm -rf ?
    – Akhil
    Commented Jun 18, 2020 at 13:10
  • 1
    Since it doesn't really remove stuff, just move to another place, the -rf doesn't matter. I explained in more details throughout the answer.
    – marcelocra
    Commented Jun 19, 2020 at 1:18
1

As stated by Ehsan88 it is a bad Idea to alias rm because it makes a habit of expecting rm to move the file to trash.
Put the following in .bashrc or the equivalent bash configuration file:
You should alias rm to send a notice message by adding the following:

alias rm='echo "rm is disabled, use trash"'

Then alias whatever command you want to move to Trash:

alias trash='mv -i -t ~/.local/share/Trash/files/ $@'

We pass in -i to alert if a file of the same name has already been deleted. We pass in -t to declare the destination. $@ is used to pass in the arguments.

0

In KDE 4.14.8 I used the following command to move files to trash (as if it were removed in Dolphin):

kioclient move path_to_file_or_directory_to_be_removed trash:/

Appendix I: I found about the command with

    ktrash --help
...
    Note: to move files to the trash, do not use ktrash, but "kioclient move 'url' trash:/"

Appendix II: the function (then source it in your .bashrc)

function Rm {
    if [[ "$1" == '--help' ]] ; then
        echo 'USAGE:'
        echo 'Rm --help # - show help'
        echo 'Rm file1 file2 file3 ...'
        echo 'Works for files and directories'
        return
    fi
    for i in "$@" ;
    do
        kioclient move $i trash:/ && echo "$i was trashed"
    done
}
0

A simple and reliable one.

Add this to .bashrc (or similar)

This date is added to avoid the file with same name being overwritten

function rm {
    local trash=~/.trash
    mkdir -p $trash
    for file in "$@"; do
        local timestamp=$(date +"%Y-%m-%d_%H-%M-%S")
        local new_name="${file%.*}_${timestamp}.${file##*.}"
        mv -i "$file" "$trash/$new_name"
    done
}

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