What Is Shell and Bash Scripting?


Scott Campbell

What Is Shell and Bash Scripting?

Shell scripting is a powerful way to automate tasks and execute commands in a Unix or Linux environment. It allows users to write a sequence of commands in a file, known as a script, which can be executed as if they were entered directly on the command line.

The most common shell used in Unix and Linux systems is the Bash shell, short for “Bourne Again SHell.” It is an enhanced version of the original Bourne shell (sh) and provides additional features such as command-line editing, history, and job control.

Why Use Shell Scripting?

Shell scripting offers several advantages:

  • Simplicity: Shell scripts are relatively easy to learn and understand compared to other programming languages.
  • Automation: You can automate repetitive tasks by writing scripts that perform them automatically.
  • Rapid Prototyping: Shell scripting allows you to quickly test ideas or solutions without the need for complex development processes.
  • System Administration: Shell scripts are widely used for system administration tasks like managing files, monitoring processes, and configuring networks.

Basic Syntax

A shell script starts with a shebang line that specifies the interpreter to use. For Bash scripts, the shebang line is typically:


The rest of the script consists of commands that are executed sequentially. Each command is written on a new line or separated by semicolons (;).


In Bash scripting, you can define variables using the following syntax:


For example:

name="John Doe"

You can then use these variables in your script by referencing them with the dollar sign ($) prefix. For example:

echo "My name is $name and I am $age years old."

Conditionals and Loops

Bash scripting supports conditionals and loops to control the flow of execution.

If Statement

The if statement allows you to perform different actions based on conditions. The syntax is as follows:

if condition
  # commands to execute if condition is true
  # commands to execute if condition is false

For Loop

The for loop allows you to iterate over a list of items. The syntax is as follows:

for item in list
  # commands to execute for each item in the list

Executing Shell Scripts

To execute a shell script, you need to make it executable using the chmod command:

chmod +x script.sh

You can then run the script by entering its filename preceded by “./” (current directory) or providing the absolute path.

Closing Thoughts

Shell scripting is a valuable skill that can greatly improve your productivity and efficiency when working with Unix or Linux systems. By automating tasks and controlling system behavior, you can save time and reduce manual errors. With its simplicity and wide range of applications, shell scripting should be part of every system administrator’s toolkit.

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