I know that I can run the following command

ls Some{File,Folder}

And it is equivalent to running this:

ls SomeFile SomeFolder

(I also use it a lot for things like mv place_{a,b})

However, I was wondering if there was a different shortcut where I could do something like this:

run-command --a --whole --lot --of --flags parameter a; \
     run-command --a --whole --lot --of --flags parameter b

And I only had to type run-command --a --whole --lot --of --flags parameter {a,b} or something similar.

  • That depends on run-command, many Unix commands handle several file arguments in sequence.
    – vonbrand
    Jan 13, 2016 at 19:36

6 Answers 6


Assuming that you are using the GNU bash or something similar:

Perhaps a for loop?

for x in a b
    run-command --a --whole --lot --of --flags parameter $x

which can also be written in one line as for x in a b; do run-command --a --whole --lot --of --flags parameter $x ; done

  • 1
    or if you have a lot you want to run you can use bash expansion like so for x in {a..z}; do ; run-command --a --whole --lot --of --flags parameter $x ; done
    – h3rrmiller
    Jan 9, 2013 at 18:11
  • What goes there can be a space separated list generated in many ways. So yeah, {a..z}, *.pdf, $(find ...)...
    – njsg
    Jan 9, 2013 at 18:34
  • I don't know why my mind didn't jump to loops. Thanks! This will probably be what I use. The function idea is good, but I like this better.
    – ashays
    Jan 10, 2013 at 7:21
  • 1
    The one-liner only worked for me after removing the ; following the do keyword.
    – jimp
    Nov 23, 2016 at 18:00
  • @jimp Thanks, I've changed the code to remove that ;.
    – njsg
    Nov 24, 2016 at 8:37

If you aren't scripting this and just want to run it easily on a command line, the xargs command is probably what you are looking for.

xargs will take a bunch of content from the standard input, and use it as arguments for a command, running that command multiple times if needed.

Try the following:

echo -n parameter a,parameter b | xargs -n 1 -d , run-command --a --whole --lot --of --flags

Echo's -n flag avoids printing a trailing new line character (caused issues with some commands while passing parameters through).

In this example, you are simply giving xargs the permutations you want it to run.

The -n 1 flag to tell xargs to use just 1 of the arguments per run.

The -d , flag tells xargs to look for a "," on the input as the deliminator between arguments to run. (Note that if the argument has a "," in it you will need to change this to something else. If your arguments have no spaces in them you can omit this flag altogether.)

See man xargs for more info.

  • echo needs -n in order to avoid adding a new line character. causes issues with some commands while passing parameters with xargs Sep 11, 2020 at 7:30

You can also use a function, which doesn't limit you to having your changing argument at the end:

runcom() { run-command --a --whole --lot --of --flags parameter "$1" ; }

runcom a
runcom b

You can perform substitutions in the previous command. This won't work with your {a, b} example, because all instances of 'a' will be replaced with a 'b'. But imagine you want to execute the following commands:

run-command --a --whole --lot --of --parameter --format xml
run-command --a --whole --lot --of --parameter --format son

You can do it with

run-command --a --whole --lot --of --parameter --format xml

Bash will do the substitution and run

run-command --a --whole --lot --of --parameter --format json

Use gs (global substitution) to perform several substitution, not only one.


There is alias command in bash:

$ alias shotcommand='run-command --a --whole --lot --of --flags parameter'

The usage is: $ shotcommand a

  • There are also functions, if the code is a bit more complex :-)
    – njsg
    Jan 9, 2013 at 18:32
  • 2
    This solution only works if my changing parameter happens to be the last one, correct?
    – ashays
    Jan 9, 2013 at 19:41
  • Yes. You are right.
    – dchirikov
    Jan 9, 2013 at 19:45

xargs combined with your original suggestion of curly braces is handy here:

echo Ahoy{1,2,3}|xargs -n1 echo

Or with your example:

echo {a,b} | xargs -d' ' -I% echo run-command --a --whole --lot --of --flags parameter %

With the added %, you can place your parameter anywhere you want in the command.

  • Welcome to the site, and thank you for your contribution. Please note however that this looks like a minor variation of the answer by @hobadee. If that was not the intention, please edit your post to make the difference in the approach more prominent. Otherwise, it should probably be an edit suggestion to that answer instead.
    – AdminBee
    Jun 20, 2023 at 11:58

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