Getting started with Bash

Download bash eBook

Versions

VersionRelease Date
0.991989-06-08
1.011989-06-23
2.01996-12-31
2.021998-04-20
2.031999-02-19
2.042001-03-21
2.05b2002-07-17
3.02004-08-03
3.12005-12-08
3.22006-10-11
4.02009-02-20
4.12009-12-31
4.22011-02-13
4.32014-02-26
4.42016-09-15

Handling Named Arguments

#!/bin/bash

deploy=false
uglify=false

while (( $# > 1 )); do case $1 in
   --deploy) deploy="$2";;
   --uglify) uglify="$2";;
   *) break;
 esac; shift 2
done

$deploy && echo "will deploy... deploy = $deploy"
$uglify && echo "will uglify... uglify = $uglify"

# how to run
# chmod +x script.sh
# ./script.sh --deploy true --uglify false
 

Hello World

Interactive Shell

The Bash shell is commonly used interactively: It lets you enter and edit commands, then executes them when you press the Return key. Many Unix-based and Unix-like operating systems use Bash as their default shell (notably Linux and macOS). The terminal automatically enters an interactive Bash shell process on startup.

Output Hello World by typing the following:

echo "Hello World"
#> Hello World  # Output Example
 

Notes

  • You can change the shell by just typing the name of the shell in terminal. For example: sh , bash , etc.

  • echo is a Bash builtin command that writes the arguments it receives to the standard output. It appends a newline to the output, by default.


Non-Interactive Shell

The Bash shell can also be run non-interactively from a script, making the shell require no human interaction. Interactive behavior and scripted behavior should be identical – an important design consideration of Unix V7 Bourne shell and transitively Bash. Therefore anything that can be done at the command line can be put in a script file for reuse.

Follow these steps to create a Hello World script:

  1. Create a new file called hello-world.sh

    touch hello-world.sh
     
  2. Make the script executable by running chmod +x hello-world.sh

  3. Add this code:

    #!/bin/bash
    echo "Hello World"
     

    Line 1: The first line of the script must start with the character sequence #! , referred to as shebang1. The shebang instructs the operating system to run /bin/bash , the Bash shell, passing it the script's path as an argument.

    E.g. /bin/bash hello-world.sh

    Line 2: Uses the echo command to write Hello World to the standard output.

  1. Execute the hello-world.sh script from the command line using one of the following:

    • ./hello-world.sh – most commonly used, and recommended
    • /bin/bash hello-world.sh
    • bash hello-world.sh – assuming /bin is in your $PATH
    • sh hello-world.sh

For real production use, you would omit the .sh extension (which is misleading anyway, since this is a Bash script, not a sh script) and perhaps move the file to a directory within your PATH so that it is available to you regardless of your current working directory, just like a system command such as cat or ls .

Common mistakes include:

  1. Forgetting to apply execute permission on the file, i.e., chmod +x hello-world.sh , resulting in the output of ./hello-world.sh: Permission denied .

  2. Editing the script on Windows, which produces incorrect line ending characters that Bash cannot handle.

    A common symptom is : command not found where the carriage return has forced the cursor to the beginning of line, overwriting the text before the colon in the error message.

    The script can be fixed using the dos2unix program.

    An example use: dos2unix hello-world.sh

    dos2unix edits the file inline.

  3. Using sh ./hello-world.sh , not realizing that bash and sh are distinct shells with distinct features (though since Bash is backwards-compatible, the opposite mistake is harmless).

    Anyway, simply relying on the script's shebang line is vastly preferable to explicitly writing bash or sh (or python or perl or awk or ruby or...) before each script's file name.

    A common shebang line to use in order to make your script more portable is to use #!/usr/bin/env bash instead of hard-coding a path to Bash. That way, /usr/bin/env has to exist, but beyond that point, bash just needs to be on your PATH . On many systems, /bin/bash doesn't exist, and you should use /usr/local/bin/bash or some other absolute path; this change avoids having to figure out the details of that.


1 Also referred to as sha-bang, hashbang, pound-bang, hash-pling.

Hello World in "Debug" mode

$ cat hello.sh 
#!/bin/bash 
echo "Hello World"
$ bash -x hello.sh 
+ echo Hello World
Hello World
 

The -x argument enables you to walk through each line in the script. One good example is here:

$ cat hello.sh
#!/bin/bash 
echo "Hello World\n" 
adding_string_to_number="s"
v=$(expr 5 + $adding_string_to_number) 

$ ./hello.sh 
Hello World

expr: non-integer argument
 

The above prompted error is not enough to trace the script; however, using the following way gives you a better sense where to look for the error in the script.

$ bash -x hello.sh 
+ echo Hello World\n
Hello World

+ adding_string_to_number=s
+ expr 5 + s
expr: non-integer argument
+ v=
 

Hello World Using Variables

Create a new file called hello.sh with the following content and give it executable permissions with chmod +x hello.sh .

Execute/Run via: ./hello.sh

#!/usr/bin/env bash

# Note that spaces cannot be used around the `=` assignment operator
whom_variable="World"

# Use printf to safely output the data
printf "Hello, %s\n" "$whom_variable"
#> Hello, World
 

This will print Hello, World to standard output when executed.

To tell bash where the script is you need to be very specific, by pointing it to the containing directory, normally with ./ if it is your working directory, where . is an alias to the current directory. If you do not specify the directory, bash tries to locate the script in one of the directories contained in the $PATH environment variable.


The following code accepts an argument $1 , which is the first command line argument, and outputs it in a formatted string, following Hello, .

Execute/Run via: ./hello.sh World

#!/usr/bin/env bash
printf "Hello, %s\n" "$1"
#> Hello, World
 

It is important to note that $1 has to be quoted in double quote, not single quote. "$1" expands to the first command line argument, as desired, while '$1' evaluates to literal string $1 .

Security Note:
Read Security implications of forgetting to quote a variable in bash shells to understand the importance of placing the variable text within double quotes.

Hello World with User Input

The following will prompt a user for input, and then store that input as a string (text) in a variable. The variable is then used to give a message to the user.

#!/usr/bin/env bash
echo  "Who are you?"
read name
echo "Hello, $name."
 

The command read here reads one line of data from standard input into the variable name . This is then referenced using $name and printed to standard out using echo .

Example output:

$ ./hello_world.sh
Who are you?
Matt
Hello, Matt.
 

Here the user entered the name "Matt", and this code was used to say Hello, Matt. .

And if you want to append something to the variable value while printing it, use curly brackets around the variable name as shown in the following example:

#!/usr/bin/env bash
echo  "What are you doing?"
read action
echo "You are ${action}ing."
 

Example output:

$ ./hello_world.sh
What are you doing?
Sleep
You are Sleeping.
 

Here when user enters an action, "ing" is appended to that action while printing.

Importance of Quoting in Strings

Quoting is important for string expansion in bash. With these, you can control how the bash parses and expands your strings.

There are two types of quoting:

  • Weak: uses double quotes: "
  • Strong: uses single quotes: '

If you want to bash to expand your argument, you can use Weak Quoting:

#!/usr/bin/env bash
world="World"
echo "Hello $world"
#> Hello World
 

If you don't want to bash to expand your argument, you can use Strong Quoting:

#!/usr/bin/env bash
world="World"
echo 'Hello $world'
#> Hello $world
 

You can also use escape to prevent expansion:

#!/usr/bin/env bash
world="World"
echo "Hello \$world"
#> Hello $world
 

For more detailed information other than beginner details, you can continue to read it here.

Viewing information for Bash built-ins

help <command>
 

This will display the Bash help (manual) page for the specified built-in.

For example, help unset will show:

unset: unset [-f] [-v] [-n] [name ...]
   Unset values and attributes of shell variables and functions.

   For each NAME, remove the corresponding variable or function.

   Options:
     -f    treat each NAME as a shell function
     -v    treat each NAME as a shell variable
     -n    treat each NAME as a name reference and unset the variable itself
       rather than the variable it references

   Without options, unset first tries to unset a variable, and if that fails,
   tries to unset a function.

   Some variables cannot be unset; also see `readonly'.

   Exit Status:
   Returns success unless an invalid option is given or a NAME is read-only.
 

To see a list of all built-ins with a short description, use

help -d
 

Stats

2552 Contributors: 57
Tuesday, July 11, 2017
Licensed under: CC-BY-SA

Not affiliated with Stack Overflow
Rip Tutorial: info@zzzprojects.com

Download eBook