This might sound pretty weird, but I know how to set the vertical cursor position in Bash like this:

echo -e "\e[12H"

This moves the cursor to the 12th line (starting with 1).

So how do I get the cursor position (line number) using linux bash? It would be helpful if I could simply store this value in a variable so I can calculate with it.


This is the error I get:

$ sh rowcol.sh
    read: 9: Illegal option -d
                              test.sh: 12: Bad substitution
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I was able to use some of the examples from the same article on SO, titled: How to get the cursor position in bash?. I'm posting this here just to show that they work and that the contents of solutions is actually on U&L as well.

Bash solutions

From inside a script

# based on a script from http://invisible-island.net/xterm/xterm.faq.html
exec < /dev/tty
oldstty=$(stty -g)
stty raw -echo min 0
# on my system, the following line can be replaced by the line below it
echo -en "\033[6n" > /dev/tty
# tput u7 > /dev/tty    # when TERM=xterm (and relatives)
IFS=';' read -r -d R -a pos
stty $oldstty
# change from one-based to zero based so they work with: tput cup $row $col
row=$((${pos[0]:2} - 1))    # strip off the esc-[
col=$((${pos[1]} - 1))

echo "(row,col): $row,$col"

NOTE: I changed the output slightly!


$ ./rowcol.bash 
(row,col): 43,0
$ clear
$ ./rowcol.bash 
(row,col): 1,0

Interactive shell

This command chain worked for getting the row and column positions of the cursor:

$ echo -en "\E[6n";read -sdR CURPOS; CURPOS=${CURPOS#*[};echo "${CURPOS}"


$ echo -en "\E[6n";read -sdR CURPOS; CURPOS=${CURPOS#*[};echo "${CURPOS}"
$ clear
$ echo -en "\E[6n";read -sdR CURPOS; CURPOS=${CURPOS#*[};echo "${CURPOS}"

NOTE: This method doesn't appear to be usable from any type of script. Even simple commands in an interactive terminal didn't work for me. For example:

$ pos=$(echo -en "\E[6n";read -sdR CURPOS; CURPOS=${CURPOS#*[};echo "${CURPOS}")

just hangs indefinitely.

dash/sh solutions

From inside a script

This solution is for Ubuntu/Debian systems that come stock with dash, which is POSIX compliant. Because of this, the read command doesn't support the -d switch among other differences.

To get around this there is this solution which uses a sleep 1 in place of the -d switch. This isn't ideal but offers at least a working solution.


exec < /dev/tty
oldstty=$(stty -g)
stty raw -echo min 0
tput u7 > /dev/tty
sleep 1
IFS=';' read -r row col
stty $oldstty

row=$(expr $(expr substr $row 3 99) - 1)        # Strip leading escape off
col=$(expr ${col%R} - 1)                        # Strip trailing 'R' off

echo "(row,col): $col,$row"


$ ./rowcol.sh 
(row,col): 0,24
$ clear
$ ./rowcol.sh 
(row,col): 0,1

Interactive shell

I couldn't find a workable solution that worked for just sh in an interactive shell.

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  • This seems to only work with bash. And not with sh. I personally prefer sh. So how could I use this with sh? – BrainStone Aug 27 '13 at 1:43
  • 1
    @BrainStone - let me research and see if I can't find a way. – slm Aug 27 '13 at 1:43
  • sh rowcol.sh. It doesn't matter what you put in the first line (#!/bin/bash or #!/bin/sh) or what ending the file has! – BrainStone Aug 27 '13 at 1:47
  • @BrainStone - but I think sh is just a compatibility mode of bash. When I do that (sh rowcol.bash) it works, does it not work for you then? – slm Aug 27 '13 at 1:58
  • 1
    @BrainStone - you could make an alias, alias sh=bash? – slm Aug 27 '13 at 2:56

Using the -p option instead of echo I found solved the hanging problem in a script. Tested with GNU bash, version 3.00.16(1)-release (x86_64-redhat-linux-gnu).

IFS=';' read -sdR -p $'\E[6n' ROW COL;echo "${ROW#*[}"

works interactively or in a script:

#!/usr/bin/env bash
function pos
    local CURPOS
    read -sdR -p $'\E[6n' CURPOS
    CURPOS=${CURPOS#*[} # Strip decoration characters <ESC>[
    echo "${CURPOS}"    # Return position in "row;col" format
function row
    local COL
    local ROW
    IFS=';' read -sdR -p $'\E[6n' ROW COL
    echo "${ROW#*[}"
function col
    local COL
    local ROW
    IFS=';' read -sdR -p $'\E[6n' ROW COL
    echo "${COL}"
tput sc         # Save cursor position
tput cup 5 10   # Move to row 6 col 11
POS1=$(pos)     # Get the cursor position
tput cup 25 15  # Move to row 25 col 15
POS2=$(pos)     # Get the cursor position
tput rc # Restore cursor position
echo $POS1 $ROW1 $COL1
echo $POS2 $ROW2 $COL2


6;11 6 11
26;16 26 16
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  • This works very well. Sadly however, it doesn't work in background processes, and as the screen scrolls, the line under the saved column changes. – leondepeon Jul 4 '18 at 15:51

You can get the cursor position via ANSI CSI DSR (Device Status Report): \e[6n. Note it returns it in a format similar to ANSI CSR CUP (Cursor Position) that you mention in your question, however it follows the form \e[n;mR (where n is the row and m the column).

More details of ANSI escape codes on wikipedia.

For getting hold of the value into a variable, this was answered on StackOverflow.

As mentioned in a previous answer/comment (and detailed in the wikipedia article), these codes are not always portable (from terminal to terminal and OS to OS). I still think this is better handled with termcap/curses ;)

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  • And how could I store this in a variable? – BrainStone Aug 26 '13 at 23:50
  • I can't get it work. I always get problems with echo -e, echo -en and read .... This only happens when the code is present in the file! I don't really understand this! – BrainStone Aug 27 '13 at 0:54
  • It seems like I broke some setting. echo -e worked before but now it doesn't! What might have caused this and how do I restore it? – BrainStone Aug 27 '13 at 1:11

With POSIX sh syntax:

if [ -t 0 ] && [ -t 1 ]; then
  old_settings=$(stty -g) || exit
  stty -icanon -echo min 0 time 3 || exit
  printf '\033[6n'
  pos=$(dd count=1 2> /dev/null)
  x=${pos##*;} y=${pos%%;*}
  stty "$old_settings"
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