Linux Know-How provides a collection of introductory texts on often needed Linux skills.

Bash options

Displaying options

We already discussed a couple of Bash options that are useful for debugging your scripts. In this section, we will take a more in-depth view of the Bash options.

Use the -o option to set to display all shell options:

willy:~> set -o
allexport                       off
braceexpand                     on
emacs                                           on
errexit                                         off
hashall                                         on
histexpand                      on
history                                         on
ignoreeof                       off
interactive-comments            on
keyword                                         off
monitor                                         on
noclobber                       off
noexec                                          off
noglob                                          off
nolog                                           off
notify                                          off
nounset                                         off
onecmd                                          off
physical                        off
posix                                           off
privileged                      off
verbose                                         off
vi                                              off
xtrace                                          off

See the Bash Info pages, section Shell Built-in Commands->The Set Built-in for a description of each option. A lot of options have one-character shorthands: the xtrace option, for instance, is equal to specifying set -x.

Changing options

Shell options can either be set different from the default upon calling the shell, or be set during shell operation. They may also be included in the shell resource configuration files.

The following command executes a script in POSIX-compatible mode:

willy:~/scripts> bash --posix

For changing the current environment temporarily, or for use in a script, we would rather use set. Use - (dash) for enabling an option, + for disabling:

willy:~/test> set -o noclobber

willy:~/test> touch test

willy:~/test> date > test
bash: test: cannot overwrite existing file

willy:~/test> set +o noclobber

willy:~/test> date > test

The above example demonstrates the noclobber option, which prevents existing files from being overwritten by redirection operations. The same goes for one-character options, for instance -u, which will treat unset variables as an error when set, and exits a non-interactive shell upon encountering such errors:

willy:~> echo $VAR

willy:~> set -u

willy:~> echo $VAR
bash: VAR: unbound variable

This option is also useful for detecting incorrect content assignment to variables: the same error will also occur, for instance, when assigning a character string to a variable that was declared explicitly as one holding only integer values.

One last example follows, demonstrating the noglob option, which prevents special characters from being expanded:

willy:~/testdir> set -o noglob

willy:~/testdir> touch *

willy:~/testdir> ls -l *
-rw-rw-r--    1 willy    willy                  0 Feb 27 13:37 *

Last Update: 2010-12-16