Book Image

Linux Shell Scripting Cookbook, Second Edition - Second Edition

Book Image

Linux Shell Scripting Cookbook, Second Edition - Second Edition

Overview of this book

The shell remains one of the most powerful tools on a computer system — yet a large number of users are unaware of how much one can accomplish with it. Using a combination of simple commands, we will see how to solve complex problems in day to day computer usage.Linux Shell Scripting Cookbook, Second Edition will take you through useful real-world recipes designed to make your daily life easy when working with the shell. The book shows the reader how to effectively use the shell to accomplish complex tasks with ease.The book discusses basics of using the shell, general commands and proceeds to show the reader how to use them to perform complex tasks with ease.Starting with the basics of the shell, we will learn simple commands with their usages allowing us to perform operations on files of different kind. The book then proceeds to explain text processing, web interaction and concludes with backups, monitoring and other sysadmin tasks.Linux Shell Scripting Cookbook, Second Edition serves as an excellent guide to solving day to day problems using the shell and few powerful commands together to create solutions.
Table of Contents (16 chapters)
Linux Shell Scripting Cookbook
About the Authors
About the Reviewers

Field separators and iterators

The internal field separator (IFS) is an important concept in shell scripting. It is very useful while manipulating text data. We will now discuss delimiters that separate different data elements from single data stream. An internal field separator is a delimiter for a special purpose. An internal field separator is an environment variable that stores delimiting characters. It is the default delimiter string used by a running shell environment.

Consider the case where we need to iterate through words in a string or comma separated values (CSV). In the first case we will use IFS=" " and in the second, IFS=",". Let us see how to do it.

Getting ready

Consider the case of CSV data:

To read each of the item in a variable, we can use IFS.
IFS=, now,
for item in $data;
    echo Item: $item


The output is as follows:

Item: name
Item: sex
Item: rollno
Item: location

The default value of IFS is a space component (newline, tab, or a space character).

When IFS is set as , the shell interprets the comma as a delimiter character, therefore, the $item variable takes substrings separated by a comma as its value during the iteration.

If IFS is not set as , then it would print the entire data as a single string.

How to do it...

Let us go through another example usage of IFS by taking the /etc/passwd file into consideration. In the /etc/passwd file, every line contains items delimited by ":". Each line in the file corresponds to an attribute related to a user.

Consider the input: root:x:0:0:root:/root:/bin/bash. The last entry on each line specifies the default shell for the user. To print users and their default shells, we can use the IFS hack as follows:

#Desc: Illustration of IFS
for item in $line;

     [ $count -eq 0 ]  && user=$item;
     [ $count -eq 6 ]  && shell=$item;
    let count++
echo $user\'s shell is $shell;

The output will be:

root's shell is /bin/bash

Loops are very useful in iterating through a sequence of values. Bash provides many types of loops. Let us see how to use them:

  • Using a for loop:

    for var in list;
        commands; # use $var
    list can be a string, or a sequence.

    We can generate different sequences easily.

    echo {1..50}can generate a list of numbers from 1 to 50. echo {a..z}or{A..Z} or {a..h} can generate lists of alphabets. Also, by combining these we can concatenate data.

    In the following code, in each iteration, the variable i will hold a character in the range a to z:

    for i in {a..z}; do actions; done;

    The for loop can also take the format of the for loop in C. For example:

        commands; # Use $i
  • Using a while loop:

    while condition

    For an infinite loop, use true as the condition.

  • Using a until loop:

    A special loop called until is available with Bash. This executes the loop until the given condition becomes true. For example:

    until [ $x -eq 9 ]; # [ $x -eq 9 ] is the condition
        let x++; echo $x;