How Do I Start Learning Shell Scripting?


Heather Bennett

Learning shell scripting can be a valuable skill for anyone working in the tech industry or even just for personal use. Shell scripting allows you to automate tasks, simplify complex processes, and save time and effort. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced programmer, this article will guide you on how to start learning shell scripting.

1. Choose a Shell

Before diving into shell scripting, it’s important to choose a shell to work with. The two most popular shells are Bash (Bourne Again SHell) and Zsh (Z Shell). Bash is the default shell on most Unix systems, while Zsh offers more features and customization options.

To check which shell you’re currently using, open your terminal and type:

$ echo $SHELL

If you’re using Bash, it will typically return ‘/bin/bash’. If Zsh is your default shell, it will return ‘/bin/zsh’.

2. Familiarize Yourself with Basic Commands

Before writing scripts, it’s essential to have a strong understanding of basic shell commands. Some common commands include:

  • cd: Change directory
  • ls: List files and directories
  • mkdir: Create a new directory
  • rm: Remove files and directories
  • echo: Print text to the terminal
  • grep: Search for patterns in files or output
  • chmod: Change file permissions
  • man: Access the manual pages for commands

Take some time to practice using these commands in your terminal to become comfortable with their functionality.

3. Start Writing Simple Scripts

Once you’re familiar with basic shell commands, you can start writing simple shell scripts. Shell scripts are text files that contain a sequence of commands to be executed by the shell. To create a script, open a text editor and save the file with a ‘.sh’ extension.

Here’s an example of a simple script that prints “Hello, World!” to the terminal:


echo "Hello, World!"

To execute the script, open your terminal and navigate to the directory where the script is located. Then run:

$ bash

You should see “Hello, World!” printed in your terminal.

4. Learn Shell Scripting Syntax and Constructs

To become proficient in shell scripting, it’s crucial to learn the syntax and constructs specific to your chosen shell (Bash or Zsh). Some important concepts include:

  • Variables: Assigning and using variables in scripts.
  • If-else statements: Executing different commands based on conditions.
  • Loops: Repeating a sequence of commands multiple times.
  • Functions: Defining reusable blocks of code.
  • Piping and redirection: Redirecting input/output between commands using pipes and redirection operators.

To learn more about these concepts, refer to online tutorials, documentation, or books specific to your chosen shell.

5. Practice and Experiment

Like any programming language, practice is key to mastering shell scripting. Start by solving small problems or automating simple tasks you encounter in your daily life. As you gain confidence, gradually tackle more complex challenges.

Remember to document your scripts and make them readable by adding comments and meaningful variable names. This practice will help you understand and maintain your scripts in the long run.


Learning shell scripting is a valuable skill that can greatly enhance your productivity as a developer or system administrator. By choosing a shell, familiarizing yourself with basic commands, writing simple scripts, learning syntax and constructs, and practicing regularly, you’ll be well on your way to becoming proficient in shell scripting.

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