What Is K Shell Scripting?


Heather Bennett

What Is K Shell Scripting?

If you are familiar with Linux or Unix operating systems, you may have come across the term “shell scripting.” Shell scripting refers to writing scripts or programs that automate tasks in a command-line interface. One of the popular shell scripting languages is the Korn Shell, often referred to as ksh.

Korn Shell: An Introduction

The Korn Shell, developed by David Korn at AT&T Bell Labs in the early 1980s, is an enhanced version of the Bourne Shell (sh). It incorporates features from both the Bourne and C shells (csh) and introduces several improvements and additional functionalities.

One of the key advantages of using the Korn Shell is its compatibility with both the Bourne Shell and C Shell syntax. This means that scripts written in sh and csh can generally be executed without modification in ksh. Moreover, ksh provides a more powerful and extensive set of features compared to its predecessors.

Features of Korn Shell

Korn Shell offers a wide range of features that make it a versatile choice for writing shell scripts. Some notable features include:

  • Command Line Editing: Korn Shell provides advanced command line editing capabilities, including history recall, command completion, and line editing shortcuts. These features enhance productivity by allowing users to navigate and edit commands efficiently.
  • Job Control: With job control functionality, users can manage multiple processes simultaneously.

    This allows for background execution of commands, suspending and resuming processes, as well as controlling their priority.

  • Arithmetic Operations: The ability to perform arithmetic calculations within shell scripts is a valuable feature offered by ksh. It supports various mathematical operations and provides built-in functions for tasks such as random number generation.
  • Command History: Korn Shell maintains a history of previously executed commands, allowing users to recall and re-execute them easily. This feature is particularly useful when working with complex or lengthy commands.

Advantages of Korn Shell Scripting

Korn Shell scripting offers several advantages over other shell scripting languages:

  • Compatibility: As mentioned earlier, ksh is backward compatible with the Bourne Shell and C Shell. This means that existing scripts can be seamlessly migrated to ksh without requiring extensive modifications.
  • Portability: Korn Shell is available on various Unix-like systems, including Linux, Solaris, AIX, and HP-UX.

    This portability ensures that scripts written in ksh can run across different platforms without major changes.

  • Extensibility: Korn Shell provides an extensive set of built-in functions and utilities that can be used to accomplish complex tasks efficiently. Additionally, it supports custom functions, allowing users to define their own reusable code blocks.
  • Ease of Use: The syntax of the Korn Shell is relatively simple and easy to understand. Its intuitive command line editing features make it convenient for writing and editing scripts quickly.


Korn Shell scripting is a powerful tool for automating tasks in a Unix-like environment. With its rich set of features and compatibility with existing shell scripts, it offers a flexible and efficient solution for writing automation scripts. Whether you are a system administrator or a developer working on Unix-based systems, learning Korn Shell scripting can greatly enhance your productivity and simplify your daily tasks.

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