What Is the Equivalent of the Scanf () in Shell Scripting?


Larry Thompson

What Is the Equivalent of the Scanf() in Shell Scripting?

Shell scripting is a powerful tool for automating tasks and executing commands in Unix-like operating systems. It allows you to write scripts that can be executed directly from the command line or as part of a larger program.

One common task in shell scripting is reading input from the user, similar to how you would use scanf() in C programming. While there is no direct equivalent to scanf() in shell scripting, there are several ways to achieve similar functionality.

1. Using the Read Command

The most common way to read user input in shell scripting is by using the read command. This command reads a line of input from the user and assigns it to a variable. Here’s an example:

echo "Enter your name:"
read name
echo "Hello, $name!"

In this example, the read command is used to read the user’s name and assigns it to the variable name. The value entered by the user is then printed using the echo command.

2. Accepting Multiple Inputs

If you need to read multiple inputs from the user, you can use multiple read commands or separate them with spaces:

echo "Enter your first name and last name:"
read firstName lastName
echo "Hello, $firstName $lastName!"

In this example, two separate variables (firstName and lastName) are used to store the values entered by the user. The values are then printed together using the echo command.

3. Reading Input with a Prompt

If you want to provide a prompt to the user while reading input, you can pass the prompt as an argument to the read command:

read -p "Enter your age: " age
echo "You are $age years old."

In this example, the -p option is used to specify the prompt text. The user’s input is then assigned to the variable age and printed using the echo command.

4. Reading Passwords Securely

If you need to read sensitive information like passwords, you can use the -s option with the read command:

read -s -p "Enter your password: " password
echo "Password entered."
# Do something with the password..

In this example, the -s option is used to make the input silent (i.e., it doesn’t echo what is being typed). This ensures that sensitive information like passwords is not displayed on the screen. You can then perform any necessary operations on the password.


In shell scripting, there isn’t a direct equivalent of scanf(), but you can achieve similar functionality using various techniques with commands like read. By using these techniques, you can easily read user input, prompt for specific values, and handle sensitive information securely in your shell scripts.

Shell scripting is a versatile tool for automating tasks and interacting with users, and understanding how to read user input is essential for building robust shell scripts.

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