title: Writing a Bash Script
Writing a Bash Script
By typing commands on the Linux command line, you can give the server instructions to get some simple tasks done. A shell
script is a way to put together a series of instructions to make this easier. Shell scripts become even more powerful when
you add logic like
while to automatically control how they behave as circumstances change.
Bash is the name of a command line interpreter, a program that makes sense of the Linux commands you enter at the command
prompt, or in your script. There are other interpreters as well, such us TC-Shell, Z Shell, Fish-Shell, and many more.
What’s in a Script?
A script is just a file. A basic script is made up of an introductory line, called a “shebang”, that tells the server what to make of it, and one
or more instructions to execute. Here’s an example:
#!/bin/bash echo "Hi. I’m your new favorite bash script."
The first line has special meaning, which we’ll discuss below. The second line is just a Linux command, one you could type
out on the command line.
What’s a Comment?
Comments are text you add to your script that you intend bash to ignore. Comments start with a pound sign, and are useful for
annotating your code so you and other users can understand it. To add a comment, type the
# character, followed by any text
that’s helpful you. Bash will ignore the
# and everything after it.
Note: the first line of the script is not a comment. This line is always first, always starts with
#! and has special
meaning to bash.
Here’s the script from before, commented:
#!/bin/bash # Designates the path to the bash program. Must start with '#!' (but isn't a comment). echo "Hi. I’m your new favorite bash script." # 'echo' is a program that sends a string to the screen.
Executing a Script
You can open a text editor, paste that example code and save the file, and you’ve got a script. Scripts are conventionally
named ending in ‘.sh,’ so you might save that code as myscript.sh.
The script won’t execute until we do 2 things:
First, make it executable. (We’ll only have to do this once.)
Linux relies extensively on file permissions. They determine a lot about how your server behaves. There’s a lot to know about
permissions, but for now we only need to know this: you can’t run your script until you give yourself execute permissions. To
do that, type:
chmod +x myscript.sh
Second, run it. We execute the script from the command line just like any other command like
date. The script
name is the command, and you need to precede it with a ‘./’ when you call it:
./myscript.sh # Outputs "Hi. I'm your new favorite bash script." (This part is a comment!)
Sometimes you want your script to do something only if something else is true. For example, print a message only if a value is
below a certain limit. Here’s an example of using
if to do that:
#!/bin/bash count=1 # Create a variable named count and set it to 1 if [[ $count -lt 11 ]]; then # This is an if block (or conditional). Test to see if $count is 10 or less. If it is, execute the instructions inside the block. echo "$count is 10 or less" # This will print, because count = 1. fi # Every if ends with fi
Similarly, we can arrange the script so it executes an instruction only while something is true. We’ll change the code so that
the value of the count variable changes:
#!/bin/bash count=1 # Create a variable named count and set it to 1 while [[ $count -lt 11 ]]; do # This is an if block (or conditional). Test to see if $count is 10 or less. If it is, execute the instructions inside the block. echo "$count is 10 or less" # This will print as long as count <= 10. count=$((count+1)) # Increment count done # Every while ends with done
The output of this version of myscript.sh will look like this:
"1 is 10 or less" "2 is 10 or less" "3 is 10 or less" "4 is 10 or less" "5 is 10 or less" "6 is 10 or less" "7 is 10 or less" "8 is 10 or less" "9 is 10 or less" "10 is 10 or less"
Real World Scripts
These examples aren’t terribly useful, but the principles are. Using
if, and any command you might otherwise type
manually, you can create scripts that do valuable work.