Questions tagged [shell]

The shell is Unix's command-line interface. You can type commands in a shell interactively, or write scripts to automate tasks. Use this tag for questions applying to /bin/sh and most compatible shells (ash, bash, ksh, zsh, …). For shell scripts with errors, please check them in http://shellcheck.net before posting here.

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282
votes
4answers
220k views

Why does my shell script choke on whitespace or other special characters?

Or, an introductory guide to robust filename handling and other string passing in shell scripts. I wrote a shell script which works well most of the time. But it chokes on some inputs (e.g. on some ...
195
votes
4answers
38k views

Why is using a shell loop to process text considered bad practice?

Is using a while loop to process text generally considered bad practice in POSIX shells? As Stéphane Chazelas pointed out, some of the reasons for not using shell loop are conceptual, reliability, ...
206
votes
3answers
18k views

Security implications of forgetting to quote a variable in bash/POSIX shells

If you've been following unix.stackexchange.com for a while, you should hopefully know by now that leaving a variable unquoted in list context (as in echo $var) in Bourne/POSIX shells (zsh being the ...
203
votes
8answers
34k views

Why *not* parse `ls` (and what to do instead)?

I consistently see answers quoting this link stating definitively "Don't parse ls!" This bothers me for a couple of reasons: It seems the information in that link has been accepted wholesale with ...
241
votes
3answers
101k views

What are the shell's control and redirection operators?

I often see tutorials online that connect various commands with different symbols. For example: command1 | command2 command1 & command2 command1 || command2 command1 && command2 ...
119
votes
1answer
42k views

When is double-quoting necessary?

The old advice used to be to double-quote any expression involving a $VARIABLE, at least if one wanted it to be interpreted by the shell as one single item, otherwise, any spaces in the content of $...
1229
votes
10answers
325k views

What is the exact difference between a 'terminal', a 'shell', a 'tty' and a 'console'?

I think these terms almost refer to the same thing, when used loosely: terminal shell tty console What exactly does each of these terms refer to?
325
votes
5answers
42k views

Why not use “which”? What to use then?

When looking for the path to an executable or checking what would happen if you enter a command name in a Unix shell, there's a plethora of different utilities (which, type, command, whence, where, ...
49
votes
1answer
26k views

Understanding the -exec option of `find`

I find myself constantly looking up the syntax of find . -name "FILENAME" -exec rm {} \; mainly because I don't see how exactly the -exec part works. What is the meaning of the braces, the ...
395
votes
13answers
202k views

Turn off buffering in pipe

I have a script which calls two commands: long_running_command | print_progress The long_running_command prints a progress but I'm unhappy with it. I'm using print_progress to make it more nice (...
112
votes
7answers
16k views

Redirecting stdout to a file you don't have write permission on

When you attempt to modify a file without having write permissions on it, you get an error: > touch /tmp/foo && sudo chown root /tmp/foo > echo test > /tmp/foo zsh: permission denied:...
15
votes
3answers
5k views

Brackets in if condition: why am I getting syntax errors without whitespace?

I am using the below script to move two days back when script runs at starting two days of the year and also check first and second days of every month and move two days back. if [$month="01"] &&...
316
votes
5answers
167k views

Difference between Login Shell and Non-Login Shell?

I understand the basic difference between an interactive shell and a non-interactive shell. But what exactly differentiates a login shell from a non-login shell? Can you give examples for uses of a ...
293
votes
16answers
357k views

How to do integer & float calculations, in bash or other languages/frameworks?

Using echo "20+5" literally produces the text "20+5". What command can I use to get the numeric sum, 25 in this case? Also, what's the easiest way to do it just using bash for floating point? For ...
345
votes
10answers
140k views

How do I delete a file whose name begins with “-” (hyphen a.k.a. dash or minus)?

How do you remove a file whose filename begins with a dash (hyphen or minus) -? I'm ssh'd into a remote OSX server and I have this file in my directory: tohru:~ $ ls -l total 8 -rw-r--r-- 1 me ...
184
votes
8answers
140k views

Allow setuid on shell scripts

The setuid permission bit tells Linux to run a program with the effective user id of the owner instead of the executor: > cat setuid-test.c #include <stdio.h> #include <unistd.h> int ...
148
votes
14answers
151k views

Batch renaming files

I have a directory full of images: image0001.png image0002.png image0003.png ... And I would like a one-liner to rename them to (say). 0001.png 0002.png 0003.png ... How do I do this?
30
votes
3answers
20k views

How can we run a command stored in a variable?

$ ls -l /tmp/test/my\ dir/ total 0 I was wondering why the following ways to run the above command fail or succeed? $ abc='ls -l "/tmp/test/my dir"' $ $abc ls: cannot access '"/tmp/test/my': No ...
264
votes
6answers
26k views

What's the difference between $(stuff) and `stuff`?

There are two syntaxes for command substitution: with dollar-parentheses and with backticks. Running top -p $(pidof init) and top -p `pidof init` gives the same output. Are these two ways of doing the ...
137
votes
4answers
48k views

$VAR vs ${VAR} and to quote or not to quote

I can write VAR=$VAR1 VAR=${VAR1} VAR="$VAR1" VAR="${VAR1}" the end result to me all seems about the same. Why should I write one or the other? are any of these not portable/POSIX?
71
votes
8answers
25k views

What is the difference between $* and $@?

Consider the following code: foo () { echo $* } bar () { echo $@ } foo 1 2 3 4 bar 1 2 3 4 It outputs: 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 I am using Ksh88, but I am interested in other common ...
53
votes
3answers
77k views

How can I make environment variables “exported” in a shell script stick around?

I have multiple Amazon EC2 accounts and want to quickly be able to switch variables, such as $EC2_HOME, using a script. I have have a shell script set up like this: #!/bin/sh export EC2_HOME=/home/...
31
votes
4answers
12k views

How can I use $variable in a shell brace expansion of a sequence?

I want to use $var in a shell brace expansion with a range, in bash. Simply putting {$var1..$var2} doesn't work, so I went "lateral"... The following works, but it's a bit kludgey. # remove the ...
33
votes
1answer
9k views

How do ${0##*/} and ${0%/*} work?

I'm quite confused about the following regular expressions I found in a shell script: ${0##*/} ${0%/*} How do they work?
64
votes
5answers
46k views

How to pass parameters to an alias?

For bash script, I can use "$@" to access arguments. What's the equivalent when I use an alias?
190
votes
20answers
232k views

How can I get distribution name and version number in a simple shell script?

I'm working on a simple bash script that should be able to run on Ubuntu and CentOS distributions (support for Debian and Fedora/RHEL would be a plus) and I need to know the name and version of the ...
75
votes
4answers
17k views

What is the difference between sourcing ('.' or 'source') and executing a file in bash?

What's the difference between executing a script like this: ./test.sh and executing a script like this: . test.sh? I tried a simple, two-line script to see if I could find if there was a ...
59
votes
5answers
86k views

Pass shell variable as a /pattern/ to awk

Having the following in one of my shell functions: function _process () { awk -v l="$line" ' BEGIN {p=0} /'"$1"'/ {p=1} END{ if(p) print l >> "outfile.txt" } ' } , so when called as ...
461
votes
4answers
162k views

What does “--” (double-dash) mean? (also known as “bare double dash”)

I have seen -- used in the compgen command. For example: compgen -W "foo bar baz" -- b What is the meaning of the -- in there?
118
votes
2answers
20k views

Have backticks (i.e. `cmd`) in *sh shells been deprecated?

I've seen this comment many times on Unix & Linux as well as on other sites that use the phrasing "backticks have been deprecated", with respect to shells such as Bash & Zsh. Is this ...
29
votes
1answer
5k views

Is it possible to use `find -exec sh -c` safely?

I'm trying to use find to echo 0 into some files, but apparently this only works with sh -c: find /proc/sys/net/ipv6 -name accept_ra -exec sh -c 'echo 0 > {}' \; But using sh -c with find -exec ...
576
votes
3answers
235k views

Difference between nohup, disown and &

What are the differences between $ nohup foo and $ foo & and $ foo & $ disown
282
votes
16answers
135k views

Get exit status of process that's piped to another

I have two processes foo and bar, connected with a pipe: $ foo | bar bar always exits 0; I'm interested in the exit code of foo. Is there any way to get at it?
81
votes
4answers
87k views

Why is `while IFS= read` used so often, instead of `IFS=; while read..`?

It seems that normal practice would put the setting of IFS outside the while loop in order to not repeat setting it for each iteration... Is this just a habitual "monkey see, monkey do" style, as it ...
51
votes
4answers
12k views

Why doesn't the tilde (~) expand inside double quotes?

According to this answer and my own understanding, the tilde expands to the home directory: $ echo ~ /home/braiam Now, whenever I want the shell expansion to work, i. e. using variable names such $...
119
votes
36answers
57k views

Quick directory navigation in the bash shell

I would like to frequently switch between directories that are in totally unrelated paths, for example /Project/Warnest/docs/ and ~/Dropbox/Projects/ds/test/. But I don't want to type cd /[full-path]/...
16
votes
3answers
6k views

Which shell interpreter runs a script with no shebang?

Suppose the default shell for my account is zsh but I opened the terminal and fired up bash and executed a script named prac002.sh, which shell interpreter would be used to execute the script, zsh or ...
13
votes
3answers
5k views

Spaces in variable assignments in shell scripts

What is the difference between below variables assignments? var=23 var =23 var= 23 var = 23 Is there any difference in space around the assignment operator?
63
votes
5answers
171k views

How to escape quotes in shell?

I'm having trouble with escaping characters in bash. I'd like to escape single and double quotes while running a command under a different user. For the purposes of this question let's say I want to ...
128
votes
7answers
19k views

Why is cd not a program?

I've always wondered why cd isn't a program, but never managed to find the answer. Anyone know why this is the case?
28
votes
3answers
5k views

Order of redirections

I don't quite understand how the computer reads this command. cat file1 file2 1> file.txt 2>&1 If I understand, 2>&1 simply redirect Standard Error to Standard Output. By that ...
73
votes
7answers
38k views

When would you use an additional file descriptor?

I know you can create a file descriptor and redirect output to it. e.g. exec 3<> /tmp/foo # open fd 3. echo a >&3 # write to it exec 3>&- # close fd 3. But you can do the same ...
76
votes
7answers
25k views

How to use `which` on an aliased command?

Like most users, I have a bunch of aliases set up to give a default set of flags for frequently used programs. For instance, alias vim='vim -X' alias grep='grep -E' alias ls='ls -G' The problem is ...
77
votes
2answers
19k views

Is there ever a good reason to run sudo su?

To launch a root shell on machines where the root account is disabled, you can run one of: sudo -i : run an interactive login shell (reads /root/.bashrc and /root/.profile) sudo -s : run a non-login ...
69
votes
8answers
50k views

How can I make iconv replace the input file with the converted output?

I have a bash script which enumerates through every *.php file in a directory and applies iconv to it. This gets output in STDOUT. Since adding the -o parameter ( in my experience ) actually writes ...
239
votes
6answers
88k views

What is the difference between the Bash operators [[ vs [ vs ( vs ((?

I am a little bit confused on what do these operators do differently when used in bash (brackets, double brackets, parenthesis and double parenthesis). [[ , [ , ( , (( I have seen people use them on ...
20
votes
2answers
7k views

in bash, read after a pipe is not setting values

Edit : original title was "read fails in bash" With ksh I'm using read as a convenient way to separate values: $ echo 1 2 3 4 5 | read a b dump $ echo $b $a 2 1 $ But it fails in bash : $ echo 1 ...
149
votes
10answers
59k views

Is there a one-liner that allows me to create a directory and move into it at the same time?

I find myself repeating a lot of: mkdir longtitleproject cd longtitleproject Is there a way of doing it in one line without repeating the directory name? I'm on bash here.
21
votes
1answer
2k views

Why doesn't 'find' show this file?

Using find with grep, one can locate files that match a pattern: # find | grep error ./solr-modifiedSolr4/SolrPhpClient/phpdocs/errors.html ./error_log ./includes/classes/error_log However, using ...
152
votes
9answers
104k views

How to determine where an environment variable came from?

I have a Linux instance that I set up some time ago. When I fire it up and log in as root there are some environment variables that I set up but I can't remember or find where they came from. I've ...