O'Reilly logo

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

Stay ahead with the world's most comprehensive technology and business learning platform.

With Safari, you learn the way you learn best. Get unlimited access to videos, live online training, learning paths, books, tutorials, and more.

Start Free Trial

No credit card required

Shell Variables

There are several characteristics of your environment that you may want to customize but that cannot be expressed as an on/off choice. Characteristics of this type are specified in shell variables. Shell variables can specify everything from your prompt string to how often the shell checks for new mail.

Like an alias, a shell variable is a name that has a value associated with it. bash keeps track of several built-in shell variables; shell programmers can add their own. By convention, built-in variables should have names in all capital letters. bash does, however, have two exceptions. [34]The syntax for defining variables is somewhat similar to the syntax for aliases:

            varname=value

There must be no space on either side of the equal sign, and if the value is more than one word, it must be surrounded by quotes. To use the value of a variable in a command, precede its name by a dollar sign ($).

You can delete a variable with the command unset varname. Normally this isn’t useful, since all variables that don’t exist are assumed to be null, i.e., equal to the empty string “”. But if you use the option nounset, which causes the shell to indicate an error when it encounters an undefined variable, then you may be interested in unset.

The easiest way to check a variable’s value is to use the echo built-in command. All echo does is print its arguments, but not until the shell has evaluated them. This includes—among other things that will be discussed later—taking the values ...

With Safari, you learn the way you learn best. Get unlimited access to videos, live online training, learning paths, books, interactive tutorials, and more.

Start Free Trial

No credit card required