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Korn Shell Style Features

This section describes features primarily inspired by the Korn Shell (ksh). In some cases, the Posix 1003.2 standard has adopted these commands and variables from the Korn Shell; Bash implements those features using the Posix standard as a guide.

Korn Shell Constructs

Bash includes the Korn Shell select construct. This construct allows the easy generation of menus. It has almost the same syntax as the for command.

The syntax of the select command is:

select name [in words ...]; do commands; done

The list of words following in is expanded, generating a list of items. The set of expanded words is printed on the standard error, each preceded by a number. If the "in words" is omitted, the positional parameters are printed. The PS3 prompt is then displayed and a line is read from the standard input. If the line consists of the number corresponding to one of the displayed words, then the value of name is set to that word. If the line is empty, the words and prompt are displayed again. If EOF is read, the select command completes. Any other value read causes name to be set to null. The line read is saved in the variable REPLY.

The commands are executed after each selection until a break or return command is executed, at which point the select command completes.

Korn Shell Builtins

This section describes Bash builtin commands taken from ksh.


fc [-e ename] [-nlr] [first] [last]
fc -s [pat=rep] [command]

Fix Command. In the first form, a range of commands from first to last is selected from the history list. Both first and last may be specified as a string (to locate the most recent command beginning with that string) or as a number (an index into the history list, where a negative number is used as an offset from the current command number). If last is not specified it is set to first. If first is not specified it is set to the previous command for editing and -16 for listing. If the -l flag is given, the commands are listed on standard output. The -n flag suppresses the command numbers when listing. The -r flag reverses the order of the listing. Otherwise, the editor given by ename is invoked on a file containing those commands. If ename is not given, the value of the following variable expansion is used: ${FCEDIT:-${EDITOR:-vi}}. This says to use the value of the FCEDIT variable if set, or the value of the EDITOR variable if that is set, or vi if neither is set. When editing is complete, the edited commands are echoed and executed.

In the second form, command is re-executed after each instance of pat in the selected command is replaced by rep.

A useful alias to use with the fc command is r='fc -s', so that typing r cc runs the last command beginning with cc and typing r re-executes the last command (see section Aliases).

The let builtin allows arithmetic to be performed on shell variables. For details, refer to section Arithmetic Builtins.

The typeset command is supplied for compatibility with the Korn shell; however, it has been made obsolete by the declare command (see section Bash Builtin Commands).

Korn Shell Variables

The default variable for the read builtin.

Each time this parameter is referenced, a random integer is generated. Assigning a value to this variable seeds the random number generator.

This variable expands to the number of seconds since the shell was started. Assignment to this variable resets the count to the value assigned, and the expanded value becomes the value assigned plus the number of seconds since the assignment.

The value of this variable is used as the prompt for the select command.

This is the prompt printed before the command line is echoed when the -x option is set (see section The Set Builtin).

The current working directory as set by the cd builtin.

The previous working directory as set by the cd builtin.

If set to a value greater than zero, the value is interpreted as the number of seconds to wait for input after issuing the primary prompt. Bash terminates after that number of seconds if input does not arrive.


The shell maintains a list of aliases that may be set and unset with the alias and unalias builtin commands.

The first word of each command, if unquoted, is checked to see if it has an alias. If so, that word is replaced by the text of the alias. The alias name and the replacement text may contain any valid shell input, including shell metacharacters, with the exception that the alias name may not contain =. The first word of the replacement text is tested for aliases, but a word that is identical to an alias being expanded is not expanded a second time. This means that one may alias ls to "ls -F", for instance, and Bash does not try to recursively expand the replacement text. If the last character of the alias value is a space or tab character, then the next command word following the alias is also checked for alias expansion.

Aliases are created and listed with the alias command, and removed with the unalias command.

There is no mechanism for using arguments in the replacement text, as in csh. If arguments are needed, a shell function should be used.

Aliases are not expanded when the shell is not interactive.

The rules concerning the definition and use of aliases are somewhat confusing. Bash always reads at least one complete line of input before executing any of the commands on that line. Aliases are expanded when a command is read, not when it is executed. Therefore, an alias definition appearing on the same line as another command does not take effect until the next line of input is read. This means that the commands following the alias definition on that line are not affected by the new alias. This behavior is also an issue when functions are executed. Aliases are expanded when the function definition is read, not when the function is executed, because a function definition is itself a compound command. As a consequence, aliases defined in a function are not available until after that function is executed. To be safe, always put alias definitions on a separate line, and do not use alias in compound commands.

Note that for almost every purpose, aliases are superseded by shell functions.

Alias Builtins

alias [name[=value] ...]

Without arguments, print the list of aliases on the standard output. If arguments are supplied, an alias is defined for each name whose value is given. If no value is given, the name and value of the alias is printed.

unalias [-a] [name ... ]

Remove each name from the list of aliases. If -a is supplied, all aliases are removed.

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