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A quick intro and hands-on with Bash

Let's talk with Bash !


It basically involves writing a series of commands that are interpreted one by one at runtime unlike programming languages that are compiled first before running.

So yes we will be talking with bash through scripts.

Bash ( Bourne-Again SHell )

Bash is one of several well known UNIX shells, its wide distribution with Linux makes it an important tool to know.

Although Bash is primarily a command interpreter, it's also a programming language. Bash supports variables, functions and has control flow constructs, such as conditional statements and loops. .


Shell is an environment in which we can run our commands, programs, and shell scripts. There are differen t flavors of a shell, just as there are different flavors of operating systems.

Evolution of shell

  • Bourne shell - the first shell to appear on Unix systems

  • C shell- csh, was modeled on the C programming language

  • Korn Shell - It incorporated all the features from the c shell (csh) and tcsh(a type of shell) .It is faster than C shell.

  • Bash - It is an improved bourne shell and incorporates useful features from the Korn shell and the C shell .

Lets write a script

To create a script file save it with .sh extension and the below code.


echo "How are you bash?"

To execute the above script you can either use "bash" or " ./ " .Also don't forget to give execute permissions.

The first line of every script should provide the path to the interpreter after the Shebang (#!)

How to use Variables

A variable is nothing more than a pointer to the actual data. The bash enables you to create, assign, and delete variables.

Syntax variable_name=variable_value //syntax to delcare a variable

Types of variables

i. Local Variables − A local variable is a variable that is present within the current instance of the shell and are declared using local keyword.

ii. Environment Variables − An environment variable is available to any child process of the shell and are declared using export keyword.


str1="Bash"	 		//declares variable
echo "$str1 $str2"		//prints "Bash Scripting"
unset str1			//deletes a variable
unset str2

Basic Operators

Bash supports the following operations

  • Arithmetic Operators
  • Relational Operators
  • Boolean Operators
  • String Operators
  • File Test Operators

Decision Making

While writing a bash script, there may be a situation when you need to adopt one path out of the given two paths. So you need to make use of conditional statements that allow your program to make correct decisions and perform the right actions.

The following are conditional statements which are used to perform different actions based on different conditions.

  • The if..elif..else statement
    • a series of if statements can be written , where each if is part of the else clause of the previous statement. Here statement(s) are executed based on the true condition, if none of the condition is true then else block is executed.
    • Example ( bash function to compare 2 values)
if [ $1 -eq $2 ]
	echo "Equal"
elif [ $1 -gt $2 ]
	echo "$1 is big"
elif [ $1 -lt $2 ]
	echo "$2 is big"
  • The case...esac statement

    • used when all of the branches depend on the value of a single variable.

    • Example ( bash function to spell a digit)

     case $1 in
     	0) echo "Zero" ;;
     	1) echo "One"  ;;
     	2) echo "Two" ;;
     	3) echo "Three"	;;
     	4) echo "Four" ;;
     	5) echo "Five"	;;
     	6) echo "Six" ;;
     	7) echo "Seven"	;;
     	8) echo "Eight" ;;
     	9) echo "Nine"	;;
     	*) echo "Unknown digit"	;;

Loop - An iterating body

A loop is a powerful programming tool that enables you to execute a set of commands repeatedly.The types of loops available are :

  • The while loop

    • enables you to execute a set of commands repeatedly until some condition occurs.
    • Example
    	while [ $i -le $1 ]
    	echo "$i"
    	i=`expr $i + 1`
  • The for loop - for loop operates on lists of items. - Example

for FILE in $1/*
echo "$FILE"
printFiles .    
  • The until loop
    • execute a set of commands until a condition is true.
    • works just opposite of while loop
    • Example
until [ $i -ge $1 ]  
	echo "$i"
	i=`expr $i + 1`
  • The select loop
    • The select loop provides an easy way to create a numbered menu from which users can select options.
    • It is useful when you need to ask the user to choose one or more items from a list of choices.
    • Example
select PAGE in Home Login Admin Student Faculty Exam Result Close
	if [[ $PAGE = Close ]]
		echo "Currently you are on $PAGE page."
echo "Your browsing history is : $HISTORY"


Functions enable you to break down the overall functionality of a script into smaller, logical subsections, which can then be called upon to perform their individual tasks when needed. Functions can be defined in two ways :

function_name () {


function function_name {

Pass Parameters to a Function

foo()  { 
   echo "Parameters received :  $1 $2"  
foo Hello Bash 

** Returning Values from Functions** Based on the situation you can return any value from your function using the return command which can be captured by $? from where the function is called.

	local sum=`expr $1 + $2`
	return sum
add 10 20
echo "Sum is $sum"

Array in bash

Arrays provide a method of grouping a set of variables. Instead of creating a new name for each variable that is required, you can use a single array variable that stores all the other variables.

  • Declaration syntax declare -a array_name


  • Common usage syntax

    arr=() // Create an empty array ${#arr[@]} // Calculate array size arr[0]=3 // Overwrite 1st element arr+=(4) // Append value(s) ${arr[@]:s:n} // Retrieve n elements starting at index s

  • Example to iterate over an array

        arr=(1 sam 3 4 5)
        for i in ${arr[@]}
        	 echo $i

Do more with Dictionaries in bash

Dictionary / associative arrays / hash map are very useful data structures and they can be created in bash.

  • Syntax

    $ declare -A dictionary_name

  • Adding key-value pairs

    $ dictionary_name[key]=value

  • Retrieve key-values

    echo ${dictionary_name[key]}

  • Delete a key in a dictionary

    unset dictionary_name[key]

  • Example

foo-dict() {
	declare -A person
	person=([name]=sam [age]=10 [gender]=male)  
	echo ${person["name"]}  // prints sam
	echo "All values are  : ${person[@]} "
	unset person[age]  // deletes a pair
	echo "All values are  : ${person[*]} "
	echo "All keys are  : ${!person[*]} "
	unset person  // delete complete person

The above discussed topics will help any beginner to understand and also to do hands-on bash scripting.

Keeping talking with BASH !!!

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