I want to create a simple bash-script that checks whether a directory contains all the files whose names contain numbers from 1 to N.

# Creating some files for testing
$ cd /tmp/
$ mkdir test
$ touch test/a01x.dat
$ touch test/b02y.dat

# Display dir contents
$ ls test/*{01,02}*
test/a01x.dat  test/b02y.dat

But using seq command to generate numbers results in the following:

$ ls test/*{$(seq -s , -f "%02g" 1 2)}*
ls: cannot access 'test/*{01,02}*': No such file or directory

I understand that running the command by surrounding the path with single quotation marks must lead to the error because the wildcards don't expand

$ ls 'test/*{01,02}*'

But I didn't use them. What is the problem?

  • "check whether a directory contains all the files" - do you want to do something if a file doesn't exist with that number in it? Or do you just want to show files that contain one of those numbers as part of the file name (your ls test/*{01,02}* seems to indicate so...) ? Also, what format will the numbers be in? If N=100 will you use 001 or 1 or ?? to start? – ivanivan Oct 20 '18 at 14:49
  • @ivanivan I've renamed the question – ka3ak Oct 20 '18 at 15:04
  • The cannot access error message from ls always shows the name in question surrounded with quotes, that has nothing to do with your problem. It might depend on the version of ls, though. Try something like ls foo "foo " – ilkkachu Oct 20 '18 at 17:48

The problem is that the shell will do brace expansion (which processes {...,...}) before it does command substitution (the $(...) part.) So after your seq is expanded, the shell will not re-evaluate the {01,02} and will leave it as a literal.

You need to add an eval to have it re-evaluate the expression after the command substitution is performed:

$ eval "ls test/*{$(seq -s , -f "%02g" 1 2)}*"

In this case, the command substitution will be performed first, resulting in a string ls test/*{01,02}* and the eval will ask the shell to interpret this as a command, which will then perform the brace and glob expansion, resulting in the list of files you're expecting.

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  • 1
    Thanks. I thought about this, but for an unknown reason didn't test it. – ka3ak Oct 20 '18 at 15:16

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