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Bash demo.png
Screenshot of bash and sh sessions demonstrating some features
Developer(s) Chet Ramey
Stable release 4.1.2  (January 18, 2010; 51 day(s) ago (2010-01-18))[1] [+/−]
Written in C
Operating system Cross-platform
Platform GNU
Available in English, multilingual (gettext)
Development status Active
Type Unix shell
License GNU General Public License version 3+[2]
Website Home page

Bash is a free software Unix shell written for the GNU Project. Its name is an acronym which stands for Bourne-again shell.[3] The name is a pun on the name of the Bourne shell (sh), an early and important Unix shell written by Stephen Bourne and distributed with Version 7 Unix circa 1978,[4] and the phrase born again. Bash was created in 1987 by Brian Fox. In 1990 Chet Ramey became the primary maintainer.[5]

Bash is a POSIX shell with a number of extensions. It is the shell for the GNU operating system from the GNU Project. It can be run on most Unix-like operating systems. It is the default shell on most systems built on top of the Linux kernel as well as on Mac OS X and Darwin. It has also been ported to Microsoft Windows using Subsystem for UNIX-based Applications (SUA), or POSIX emulation provided by Cygwin and MSYS. It has been ported to MS-DOS by the DJGPP project and to Novell NetWare.



The Bash command syntax is a superset of the Bourne shell command syntax. The vast majority of Bourne shell scripts can be executed by Bash without modification, with the exception of Bourne shell scripts stumbling into fringe syntax behavior interpreted differently in Bash (nested parentheses broke under Bash, for example, in the Mozilla startup script some years back), or attempting to run a system command matching a newer bash builtin, etc. Bash command syntax includes ideas drawn from the Korn shell (ksh) and the C shell (csh) such as command line editing, command history, the directory stack, the $RANDOM and $PPID variables, and POSIX command substitution syntax $(…). When used as an interactive command shell and pressing the tab key, Bash automatically uses command line completion to match partly typed program names, filenames and variable names.

Bash's syntax has many extensions which the Bourne shell lacks. Bash can perform integer calculations without spawning external processes, unlike the Bourne shell. Bash uses the ((…)) command and the $[…] variable syntax for this purpose. Bash syntax simplifies I/O redirection in ways that are not possible in the traditional Bourne shell. For example, Bash can redirect standard output (stdout) and standard error (stderr) at the same time using the &> operator. This is simpler to type than the Bourne shell equivalent 'command > file 2>&1'. Bash function declarations (using the key word 'function') are not compatible with Bourne/Korn/POSIX/C-shell scripts. Due to these and other differences, Bash shell scripts are rarely runnable under the Bourne or Korn shell interpreters unless deliberately written with that compatibility in mind, which is becoming less common as Linux becomes more widespread.

Bash supports here documents just as the Bourne shell always has. However, since version 2.05b Bash can redirect standard input (stdin) from a "here string" using the <<< operator.

Bash 3.0 supports in-process regular expression matching using a syntax reminiscent of Perl.[6]

Brace expansion

Brace expansion is a feature, originating in csh, that allows arbitrary strings to be generated using a similar technique to filename expansion. However the generated names need not exist as files. The results of each expanded string are not sorted and left to right order is preserved:

echo a{p,c,d,b}e # ape ace ade abe

Brace expansions should not be used in portable shell scripts, because the Bourne shell will not produce the same output.

# A traditional shell does not produce the same output
echo a{p,c,d,b}e # a{p,c,d,b}e

When brace expansion is combined with wildcards, the braces are expanded first, then the resulting wildcards are substituted normally. Hence, a listing of JPEG and PNG images in the current directory could be obtained with:

ls *.{jpg,jpeg,png}    # expands to *.jpg *.jpeg *.png, after which the wilcards are processed

Startup scripts

When Bash starts, it executes the commands in a variety of different scripts.

When Bash is invoked as an interactive login shell, it first reads and executes commands from the file /etc/profile, if that file exists. After reading that file, it looks for ~/.bash_profile, ~/.bash_login, and ~/.profile, in that order, and reads and executes commands from the first one that exists and is readable.

When a login shell exits, Bash reads and executes commands from the file ~/.bash_logout, if it exists.

When an interactive shell that is not a login shell is started, Bash reads and executes commands from ~/.bashrc, if that file exists. This may be inhibited by using the --norc option. The --rcfile file option will force Bash to read and execute commands from file instead of ~/.bashrc.

Some versions of Unix have especially contorted system scripts for Bash which will effectively violate the documented script load order by loading scripts too early or attempting to combine Bash startup with the startup scripts for other shells in various ways.


Shell scripts written with Bash-specific features (bashisms) will not function on a system using the Bourne shell or one of its replacements, unless Bash is installed as a secondary shell and the script begins with #!/bin/bash interpreter directive (known as a "shebang line").

Keyboard shortcuts

The following shortcuts work when using default (Emacs) key bindings. Vi-bindings can be enabled by running set -o vi.

See also: Readline

  • Tab  : Autocompletes from the cursor position.
  • Ctrl+a : moves the cursor at the beginning of the line (equivalent to the key Home).
  • Ctrl+e : (end) moves the cursor at the line end (equivalent to the key End).
  • Ctrl+p : (previous) recalls the previous command (equivalent to the key ).
  • Ctrl+n : (next) recalls the next command (equivalent to the key ).
  • Ctrl+r : (research) recalls the last command including the specified character(s). A second Ctrl+r recalls the next anterior command which corresponds to the research
  • Ctrl+s : Go back to the next more recent command of the research (beware to not execute it from a terminal because this command also launches its XOFF). If you changed that XOFF setting, use Ctrl+q to return.
  • Ctrl+o : executes the found command from research.
  • Ctrl+l : clears the screen content (equivalent to the command clear).
  • Ctrl+u : clears the line content before the cursor and copy it in the clipboard.
  • Ctrl+k : clears the line content after the cursor and copy it in the clipboard.
  • Ctrl+w : clears the word before the cursor and copy it in the clipboard.
  • Ctrl+y : (yank) adds the clipboard content from the cursor position.
  • Ctrl+d : sends an EOF marker, which (unless disabled by an option) closes the current shell (equivalent to the command exit).
  • Ctrl+c : sends the signal SIGINT to the current task, which aborts and closes it.
  • Ctrl+z : sends the signal SIGTSTP to the current task, which suspends it. To return to it later one can enter fg 'process name' (foreground).
  • Ctrl+x Ctrl+x : (because x has a crossing shape) alternates the cursor with its old position.
  • Ctrl+x Ctrl+e : (editor because it takes the $EDITOR shell variable) edits the current line in vi.
  • Alt+f : (forward) moves forward the cursor of one word.
  • Alt+b : (backward) moves backward the cursor of one word.
  • Alt+Del : cuts the word before the cursor.
  • Alt+d : cuts the word after the cursor.
  • Alt+u : capitalizes every character from the cursor's position to the end of the current word.
  • Alt+l : lowers the case of every character from the cursor's position to the end of the current word.
  • Alt+c : capitalizes the character under the cursor and moves to the end of the word.
  • Alt+r : cancels the changes and put back the line as it was in the history.

See also


  1. ^ Ramey, Chet (2010-01-03). "Bash-4.1 available for FTP". info-gnu mailing list. Retrieved 2010-01-04. 
  2. ^ GNU Project. "README file". "Bash is free software, distributed under the terms of the [GNU] General Public License as published by the Free Software Foundation, version 3 of the License (or any later version)" 
  3. ^ C Programming by Al Stevens, Dr. Dobb's Journal, July 1, 2001
  4. ^ Fresh Faces by Rosalyn Lum, Dr. Dobb's Journal, June 1, 2005
  5. ^ Ramey, Chet (1994-08-01). "Bash - the GNU shell (Reflections and Lessons Learned)". Linux Journal. Retrieved 2008-11-13. 
  6. ^ The syntax matches that shown on the regex(7) man page.

External links


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