105.2 Customize or write simple scripts

Weight: 4


Candidates should be able to customize existing scripts, or write simple new Bash scripts.

Key Knowledge Areas:

  • Use standard sh syntax (loops, tests)
  • Use command substitution
  • Test return values for success or failure or other information provided by a command
  • Perform conditional mailing to the superuser
  • Correctly select the script interpreter through the shebang (#!) line
  • Manage the location, ownership, execution and suid-rights of scripts

Terms and Utilities

  • for
  • while
  • test
  • if
  • read
  • seq
  • exec

Shell Scripts

Are a way of automating tasks.


If a line starts with #! it is called shebang and tells the shell what interpreter to use for running this script.

Note: Normally a # at the beginning of a script is for showing comments. Do not confuse it with Shebang (#!)

In many cases we run shells with #!/bin/bash or #!/bin/sh

We can use the command we already know in our shell scripts. A sample is:


echo "We are learning! Wowww..."


Already seen in some parts. You can define variables like this VARNAME=VALUE. A sample:



echo "$NAME is learning! Wowww..."

Note: you can also do NAME="Jadi"

Command substitution

Sometimes you need to have a variable with the result of something to a variable. In this case you can use $() construct:

FILES=$(ls -1)

executing scripts

If the file is executable, we can run them using the ./script_name.sh if we are in the same directory, or give the complete path or include their directory ine $PATH variable. As you can see they are just normal programs.

Another way is giving our scripts name as a parameter to the bash or sh commands.

Note: you know that for making a file executable we can do chmod 755 filename or chmod +x fiename.


Up to now, we were just running commands one by one. That is not very programmatic. If we are going to have some logic in our programs, we need conditions and loops. First we will cover conditions, using the if command. Its usage is like this:

if [condition]
   do something 
   do another thing
   do new things
   even funnier things

Note: else part is optional, if, then, fi is enough.

Conditions can be TRUE or FALSE. A very simple conditions is if [ "Linux" = "Linux" ]. Silly? I know but we will change it soon but for now, learn the syntax! Specially the spaces and = for checking if two strings are equal.


kernel=$(uname -s)
if [ $kernel = "Linux" ]
    echo YES. You are using a Linux
    echo "Not a linux :("

Note spaces and using doublequotes (") on seccond echo because it has ( character which will be interpreted by bash if we do not enclose the string in a doublequote.

The actual checking of the condition is done by test command which is writter as [ some test ]. There are the other options:

conditions what is means
"a" = "b" if two strings are equal (here it will return False)
"a" != "b" string a is not equal to string b
4 -lt 40 if 4 is lower than 40 (True)
5 -gt 15 if 5 is greater than 15 (False)
5 -ge 5 if 5 is greater or equal 5
5 -le 3 if 5 is lower or equal to 3
9 -ne 2 9 is not equal with 2 (True)
-f FILENAME if file FILENAME exists
-s FILENAME if file exists and its size is more than 0
-x FILENAME file exists and is executable


Using read we can read the user input. Look at this:

1 #!/bin/sh
  3 echo "what is your name?"
  4 read NAME
  6 echo "Hello $NAME"
  8 if [ $NAME = "Jadi" ]
  9 then
 10      echo "Oh I know you!"
 11  else
 12      echo "I wish I knew you"
 13 fi
 15 echo "Bye"

for loop

Generaly loops are used to run a specific set of commands more than once. The syntax is like this:

  some stuff with $VAR
  some other stuff

Note the in, ;, do and done.

On each loop, the VAR will be equal to one of the SOME_LIST elements. SOME_LIST can be numbers, name of files, words, ...

for NUM in 1 2 3 4 5 6;
    echo $NUM

But what if you needed to go 1 to 42? We have the seq command which can be used like seq 1 42 or a shorthand like {1..42}.

Good part is we can use non-numbers too!

for FILE in $(ls);
    echo $FILE
    wc $FILE

while loop

This is another kind of loop but loops while a conditions is TRUE. This is the syntax:

while [condition]
    do something
    do anohter thing

Note: If your condition will remains true all the time, the while loop will run forever. This is called an infinite loop

This is sample:


while [ $VAR -gt 42 ]
    echo VAR is $VAR and it is still greater than 42
    let VAR=VAR-1

we will have an infinite loop if we use let VAR=VAR+1. Ctrl+C will help us to break the loop.

Note the let usage! If you just just say VAR=1 and then VAR=$VAR+1, then VAR will be equal to 1+1 as an string!.

mailing the root user

For sending mail, you need to install mailutils. Then the mail command will send emails. You can send the mail to the root user by issuing this command:

jadi@funlife:~$ mail root
Subject: Hi there root
hello there. This is my mail

And root will get this email. She can read it using mail command.

If you need to send emails in a script, just do:

$ echo "Body!" | mail -s "Subject" root

This can be easily embeded as poart of your scripts!

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