Chapter 11 Basic Shell Scripting in Linux!

Published on: May 19, 2009 by Faheem P.

Chapter 11 Basic Shell Scripting in Linux!


We are providing Linux scripting services to our clients, through this article we are trying to provide some of the basics of Linux scripting.

What is a Shell ? :- Shell is a command interpreter – Expands and interprets the command entered before passing to kernel. With GUI, most of the tasks can be done, but not all.

/etc/profile – Ready by all shells and not shell specific

Prompts – A string of characters like $ or # that shell displays when it can accept your command.

Job control – Multitasking. Running many programs in bg and fg.

Wildcard Expansion – *, ?, [ ], !

ls * – all
ls ? – one character
ls [ab]* – starting with a or b
ls [!ab]* – Starting with any except a and b
ls [a-dx-z] – Starting with a, b, c, d, x, y, z

Piping and I/O Redirection – | , <, > , >> , 2>, 1>

Standard Input/Output/Error  :-

File Descriptor STDIN – < or 0
File Descriptor STDOUT – > or 1 or 1>
File Descriptor STDERR – 2> or 2

#ls > output_file
#cat < input_file – > overwrites
#ls >> output_file – >> appends

Redirecting only the errors to a error_file  :-

#ls non_existent_file 2> error_file – clears existing errors and add a fresh error entry
#ls non_existent_file 2>> error_file – appends the new error to existing entry

#ls existent_file non_existent_file > output_file 2>&1

displays the output and error of ls to output_file

#ls existent_file non_existent_file 2>&1 > output_file

displays error to console and output to output_file

By default, stderr is not passed on to pipes. i.e a command such as ls non_existent_file | grep error won’t show any output, however a small change to command like –> ls non_existent_file 2>&1 | grep -i error will show the error, if any.

Line continuation or Escape character – \

Variable expansion – $PWD, $VARIABLE1

Alias expansion – ll –> ls -l –color=tty

Command auto completion and substitution

# rm -f `ls /tmp` – will delete files inside /tmp, but not directories

# rm -f $(ls /tmp) – is same as above

# cat file ; date – Both commands date and cat file is executed even if there is an error with date

# cat file && date – date executes only if cat file is executed without any errors

# cat file || date – date executes only if cat file is executed with an error

Scripting :- A simple language with only a few reserved words like case, esac, if, fi, eif, done, for, do, function, select in, then, until, while etc.

Shebang line – For a perl script it is “#!/usr/bin/perl” – Location of perl (ofcouse without the double quotes), while in a bash script the file line is “#!/bin/bash”


# My first script

echo “Hello. This is my first script”
echo “I am running this script from $(pwd) directory”

To run this script,

#chmod +x
# ./ OR . OR source

$1, $2, $3 refer to arguments.

$@ is “$1”, “$2”, “$3” .. ie array of 3 arguments.
$* is “$1 $2 $3” .. ie considered as 1 argument seperated with space
$# is number of parameters
$? exit status
$$ represents the PID of the running shell
$! represents the PID value of the last child process

man test to see the expressions to test file or string status or values. Common options  are
-f – file exists and is ordinary
-d – file exists and is directory
-r – file exists and is readable
-w – file exists and is writable
-x – file exists and is executable
-n – string is not empty
-z – string is empty
== – string comparison and proved equal
!= – string comparison, and not equal

Conditional Statements

if, elif, fi

if [ -f /etc ]
echo “/etc is a directory”
echo “/etc is what?”

case , esac

echo “Enter your option from 1-5 : ”
read i;

case $i in
1) ls -l ;;
2) ps -aux ;;
3) date ;;
4) who ;;
5) exit

while do done

while [  $COUNTER -lt 10 ]; do
echo Count is $COUNTER

for do done

Arithmetic operations  :-

echo “Please input your first number”
read  first
echo “Now input your second”
read second
echo “Adding first and second numbers gives me” $(($first+$second)) “as result.”

expr and let can be used to calculate in the bash shell also. let x=1+2; echo $x will show the result as 3

Debugging mode in bash  :-

!#/bin/bash -x

Category : Linux

Faheem P.

Faheem P.

Faheem enjoys learning new technologies and loves to implement cutting edge solutions. He is one of the most active member in various technical forums and is a familiar face in various brain storming sessions. He takes great pride in being an explorer and the best thing you can be sure about in his room is the backpack!!

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