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Learning the bash Shell, Second Edition by Bill Rosenblatt, Cameron Newham

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Aliases

If you have used UNIX for any length of time you will have noticed that there are many commands available and that some of them have cryptic names. Sometimes the commands you use the most have a string of options and arguments that need to be specified. Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a feature that let you rename the commands or allowed you to type in something simple instead of half a dozen options? Fortunately, bash provides such a feature: the alias. [29]

Aliases can be defined on the command line, in your .bash_profile, or in your .bashrc, using this form:

alias name=command

This syntax specifies that name is an alias for command. Whenever you type name as a command, bash will substitute command in its place when it executes the line. Notice that there are no spaces on either side of the equal sign (=); this is the required syntax.

There are a few basic ways to use an alias. The first, and simplest, is as a more mnemonic name for an existing command. Many commonly used UNIX commands have names that are poor mnemonics and are therefore excellent candidates for aliasing, the classic example being:

alias search=grep

grep, the UNIX file-searching utility, was named as an acronym for something like “Generalized Regular Expression Parser.” [30]This acronym may mean something to a computer scientist, but not to the office administrator who has to find Fred in a list of phone numbers. If you have to find Fred and you have the word search defined as an alias for grep, you can ...

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