We collect practical, well-explained Bash one-liners, and promote best practices in Bash shell scripting. To get the latest Bash one-liners, follow @bashoneliners on Twitter. If you find any problems, report a bug on GitHub.



Get the last modification date of a file in any format you want

 $ date -r /etc/motd +%Y%m%d_%H%M%S

— by Janos on Oct. 17, 2012, 4:42 p.m.


The -r flag is a shortcut of --reference and it is used to specify a reference file. Used in this way, the date command prints the last modification date of the specified file, instead of the current date.

The + controls the output format, for example:

  • %Y = 4-digit year
  • %m = 2-digit month
  • %d = 2-digit day
  • %H = 2-digit hour
  • %M = 2-digit minutes
  • %S = 2-digit seconds

So in this example +%Y%m%d_%H%M%S becomes 20121001_171233

You should be able to find all the possible format specifiers in man date.


The default date command in Solaris does not support the --reference flag. Modern Solaris systems have the GNU tools installed, so you may be able to find the GNU implementation of date which supports this flag. Look for it in /usr/gnu/bin/date or /usr/local/bin/date, or do search the entire /usr with find /usr -name date.

In Solaris this may be a suitable substitute without using the date command:

ls -Ego /etc/motd | awk '{print $4 "_" $5}' | tr -d :- | sed -e 's/\..*//'

Or you can use good old perl:

perl -mPOSIX -e 'print POSIX::strftime("%Y%m%d_%H%M%S\n", localtime((stat("/etc/motd"))[9]))'


Forget all remembered path locations

 $ hash -r

— by Janos on Oct. 14, 2012, 9:46 a.m.


bash remembers the full path name of each command you enter, so it doesn't have to lookup in $PATH every single time you run the same thing. It also counts the number of times you used each command in the current session, you can see the list with hash.

Anyway, this behavior can poses a small problem when you reinstall an application at a different path. For example you reinstall a program that used to be in /usr/local/bin and now it is in /opt/local/bin. The problem is that if you used that command in the current shell session, then bash will remember the original location, which of course doesn't work anymore. To fix that, you can either run hash cmd which will lookup the command again, or run hash -r to forget all remembered locations (less efficient, but maybe faster to type ;-)

For more details, see help hash


Rename files with numeric padding

 $ perl -e 'for (@ARGV) { $o = $_; s/\d+/sprintf("%04d", $&)/e; print qq{mv "$o" "$_"\n}}'

— by Janos on Oct. 6, 2012, 1:38 p.m.


Basically a one-liner perl script. Specify the files to rename as command line parameters, for example:

perl -e '.....' file1.jpg file2.jpg

In this example the files will be renamed to file0001.jpg and file0002.jpg, respectively. The script does not actually rename anything. It only prints the shell commands to execute that would perform the renaming. This way you can check first that the script would do, and if you want to actually do it, then pipe the output to sh like this:

perl -e '.....' file1.jpg file2.jpg | sh

What's happening in the one-liner perl script:

  • for (@ARGV) { ... } is a loop, where each command line argument is substituted into the auto-variable $_.
  • $o = $_ :: save the original filename
  • s/// :: perform pattern matching and replacement on $_
  • print qq{...} :: print the mv command, with correctly quoted arguments


The script does not cover all corner cases. For example it will not work with files that have double-quotes in their names. In any case, it is safe to review the output of the script first before piping it to sh.

If your system has the rename command (Linux), then a shortcut to do the exact same thing is with:

rename 's/\d+/sprintf("%04d", $&)/e' *.jpg

It handles special characters better too.


Copy or create files with specific permissions and ownership

 $ install -b -m 600 /dev/null NEWFILE

— by Janos on Sept. 25, 2012, 2:20 p.m.


This example creates a new (empty) file with permissions 600. You could also specify the owner and group using the -o and -g flags respectively.

Although you could accomplish the same for example by creating the file with touch and then change permissions with chmod and chown, or use umask to control the permissions of newly created files, those methods take multiple steps, while with install it is a single step.

You can also use install to copy multiple files to a directory with specified permissions like this:

install -m 600 -o jack -g wheel file1 file2 /path/to/existing/dir


Redirect stdout to a file you don't have write permission on

 $ echo hello | sudo tee -a /path/to/file

— by Janos on Sept. 11, 2012, 9:24 a.m.


  • The tee command copies standard input to standard output, making a copy in zero or more files.
  • If the -a flag is specified it appends instead of overwriting.
  • Calling tee with sudo makes it possible to write to files the current user has no permission to but root does.


`tail -f` a file until text is seen

 $ tail -f /path/to/file.log | sed '/^Finished: SUCCESS$/ q'

— by Janos on Aug. 22, 2012, 8:29 a.m.


tail -f until this exact line is seen:

Finished: SUCCESS

The exit condition does not have to be an exact line, it could just well be a simple pattern:

... | sed '/Finished/ q'


Run command multiple times with a for loop and a sequence expression

 $ for i in {1..10}; do date; sleep 1; done

— by Janos on Aug. 19, 2012, 9:27 a.m.


This is just a regular for loop with a sequence expression. A sequence expression has the form {x..y[..incr]}, where x and y are either integers or single characters, and incr an optional increment.

More examples:

  • {a..f} = a b c d e f
  • {a..f..2} = a c e
  • {0..1}{0..1} = 00 01 10 11


Don't try a large range like {1..10000000000000000}, it may render your computer unusable until killed.


Recording SSH sessions

 $ ssh -l USER HOST | tee -a /path/to/file

— by LeandroToledo on Aug. 15, 2012, 5:04 p.m.


tee is a command which displays or pipes the output of a command and copies it into a file or a variable.

The -a option appends the output to the end of file instead of writing over it.

You can also create an alias in ~/.bashrc to record your session when using ssh:

function sshlog () { \ssh $@ 2>&1 | tee -a $(date +%Y%m%d).log; }
alias ssh=sshlog


Clear the swap space forcing everything back to main memory in Linux

 $ sudo swapoff -a; sudo swapon -a

— by Janos on Aug. 14, 2012, 11:21 a.m.


Note: if you don't have enough main memory the swapoff will fail.


This works only in Linux.


Redirection operator to override the noclobber option

 $ some_command >| output.txt

— by Janos on Aug. 11, 2012, 9:21 a.m.


Normally the > operator overwrites the target file.

If the noclobber option is set (using: set -o noclobber), the > operator will fail if the target file exists.

The >| overrides the noclobber setting and overwrites the target file.

If the noclobber option is not set, then >| is equivalent to >, naturally.


How to set the ip address in Solaris 11

 $ ipadm create-addr -T static -a eth0/staticaddr

— by Janos on Aug. 3, 2012, 11:44 a.m.


  • eth0 is the name of the network interface
  • ipadm show-if shows the list of network interfaces
  • staticaddr is a name you can choose

More details here: http://docs.oracle.com/cd/E19963-01/html/821-1458/gjwiq.html


Record audio from microphone or sound input from the console

 $ sox -t ossdsp -w -s -r 44100 -c 2 /dev/dsp -t raw - | lame -x -m s - File.mp3

— by Kleper on July 28, 2012, 8:55 p.m.


sox is a software that lets you connect directly to the sound card and send what passes for it in raw format and the system memory through the concatenation of the linux command we can make real-time audio processing is generated by licks and be converted to mp3.


Requires a plugin for alsa oss to run on modern distributions.


Use vim to pretty-print code with syntax highlighting

 $ vim +'hardcopy > output.ps' +q style.css 

— by Janos on July 21, 2012, 12:13 a.m.


If you have syntax highlighting properly setup in vim, this command will pretty-print the specified file with syntax highlighting to output.ps.

If you prefer PDF, you can convert using ps2pdf output.ps.


Log and verify files received via FTP

 $ for i in $(cat /var/log/vsftpd.log | grep $DATE_TIME | grep UPLOAD | grep OK); do ls /FTP/HOME/$i >> /dev/null 2> \&1; if \[ $? = 0 \]; then echo "$i" >> $FILES_OK_UPLOADS.log; else  echo "$DATE ERROR: File $i not found" >> $FTP_FILES_NOTOK_$DATE_TIME.log; fi; done

— by dark_axl on July 10, 2012, 8:54 p.m.


This one-liner checks and validates the received files via ftp, and generates a log of these files. To have a record of files received and be able to process, based on the successful transfer and the existence of the files.


Edit the Gimp launcher file to disable the splash screen

 $ printf '%s\n' ',s/^Exec=[^ ]*/& -s/' w q | ed /usr/share/applications/gimp.desktop

— by Anon8yhYNaVe on July 1, 2012, 12:57 a.m.


sed is designed for editing streams - editing files is what ed is for! You can get consistent behavior on any UNIX platform with the above one-liner.

The printf command sends a series of editing commands to ed, each separated by a newline. In this case, the substitution command ,s/^Exec=[^ ]*/& -s/ is nearly the same as in sed, appending a space and a -s to the line starting with Exec=. The only difference is the comma at the beginning designating the lines to operate on. This is shorthand for 1,$, which tells ed to apply the command to the first through the last lines (i.e., the entire file). w tells ed to write the file, and q to quit.


Edit the Gimp launcher file to disable the splash screen

 $ sudo sed -i 's/^Exec=[^ ]*/& -s/' /usr/share/applications/gimp.desktop

— by Janos on June 30, 2012, 9:06 p.m.


  • The -i flag of sed means to perform the command "in place", that is, save any changes in the input file. Use this flag with extreme caution, one wrong move and you can completely break the original file.
  • The regex pattern /^Exec=[^ ]*/ will match the line starting with Exec= followed by zero or more non-space characters.
  • In the replacement string, & -s, the & is replaced with whatever was matched, in this example probably something like Exec=gimp-2.8, after which we add a space and the -s flag which will effectively disable the splash screen when starting Gimp.


The -i flag of sed works differently in GNU and BSD systems. This example works in GNU systems only. The equivalent in BSD is:

sudo sed -i '' 's/^Exec=[^ ]*/& -s/' /usr/share/applications/gimp.desktop

In any case, always be very careful when using the -i flag of sed.


`less` is more convenient with the `-F` flag

 $ less -F FILE1

— by Janos on June 25, 2012, 6:47 p.m.


less is a "pager" program like more, with a lot of added features. By default, to exit less you have to press q. This can be annoying when viewing a small file that would fit on the screen.

The -F flag to the rescue! When started with the -F flag, less will quit if the entire input (whether from stdin or a file) fits on a single screen.

It has no effect whatsoever for longer input, so it is safe to add an alias for this:

alias less='less -F'


Append to a file text, a blank line, and the last line of another file

 $ { echo some text; echo; tail -n1 /var/log/apache2/error.log; } >> /path/to/file

— by Janos on June 22, 2012, 5:29 p.m.


All the standard output from all the commands between the braces will be redirected.


Append to a file text, a blank line, and the last line of another file

 $ echo -e "From: me\n\n$(tail -n1 /var/log/apache2/error.log)" >> file

— by kevin on June 21, 2012, 8:18 p.m.


  • -e option to echo makes it interpret '\n' as a newline
  • $(command) syntax runs a command, then uses its output in place


The -e flag of echo doesn't work on all systems. In that case you can use printf instead.


Run a local shell script on a remote server without copying it there

 $ ssh user@server bash < /path/to/local/script.sh

— by Janos on June 21, 2012, 12:06 a.m.


Yes this is almost trivial: a simple input redirection, from a local shell script to be executed by bash on the remote server.

The important point being, if you have a complex and very long chain of commands to run on a remote server, it is better to put the commands in a shell script, break the long one-liner to multiple lines for readability and easier debugging.

Replace bash accordingly depending on the language of the script, for example for python:

ssh user@server python < /path/to/local/script.py


Convert a list of terms in slug format to capitalized words

 $ sed -e 's/^./\U&/' -e 's/_./\U&/g' -e 's/_/ /g' /path/to/input

— by Janos on June 17, 2012, 7:54 a.m.


The goal here is to take an input like this:


... and convert it to an output like this:

Police Station
Post Office
Real Estate Agency
  • -e ... the sed command can take several -e parameters, which will be executed one by one when processing each line in the input
  • The s/// command is a pattern replacement, and has the general format s/pattern/replacement/flags
  • s/^./\U&/ - replace the first letter of the line with uppercase version of the letter: \U means convert to uppercase, & is the matched string
  • s/_./\U&/g- replace _ and any letter followed by it. The g flag at the end means a "global" replacement, so all occurrences of the pattern _. will be replaced
  • s/_/ /g - replace all underscores with spaces
  • Input to sed can come from a list of files, or input redirection with <, or from a pipe.


Execute different commands with find depending on file type

 $ find /path/to/dir -type d -exec chmod 0755 '{}' \; -o -type f -exec chmod 0644 '{}' \;

— by Janos on June 17, 2012, 12:01 a.m.


  • -type d -exec chmod 0755 '{}' \; for each directory, run chmod 0755
  • \; is to mark the end of the -exec
  • {} is replaced with the filename, we enclosed it in single quotes like this '{}' to handle spaces in filenames
  • -ological OR operator
  • -type f -exec chmod 0644 '{}' \; for each regular file, run chmod 0644


Convert m4a files to mp3 using faad and lame

 $ faad -o tmp.wav music.m4a && lame -b 192 tmp.wav music.mp3

— by Janos on June 14, 2012, 9:29 a.m.


  • Step 1: convert m4a to wav using faad
  • Step 2: convert wav to mp3 using lame
  • -b 192 is the bitrate


Neither faad nor lame are standard commands.


Write both stdout and stderr to the same file

 $ do_something.sh &> out.log

— by Janos on June 5, 2012, 11:34 a.m.


Note: this is not always the same as:

do_something.sh >out.log 2>out.log

Using &> will ensure that the order of lines coming from stdout and stderr is preserved.


This works in /bin/bash and may not work in /bin/sh or other stripped down variants of bash.


Create or mount an encrypted directory using encfs

 $ encfs -i 5 $PWD/raw $PWD/content

— by Janos on May 22, 2012, 12:21 a.m.


The first time you run this, it will create an encrypted directory raw in the current working directory, and mount it on directory content in the same directory. It will ask a couple of questions:

  1. Create directory "raw" ? -- answer "y"
  2. Create directory "content" ? -- answer "y"
  3. Choose configuration mode -- press enter, or "p" for "paranoia mode"

The content directory will be visible and editable only by your user, and all the files you put inside will be saved encrypted under raw. The encrypted data is only visible when raw is mounted somewhere.

The -i 5 means the content directory will be automatically unmounted after being idle for 5 minutes.

You can manually unmount with umount ./content in Linux, and fusermount -u ./content in Mac OS.

To mount raw again, simply re-run the same command. This time it will only ask for the password.


encfs is not a standard command/package. Major Linux distros have it in their repos, on Mac OS you can install using ports. (sudo port install encfs)