What Is the Main Use of Tty Command in Unix Shell Scripting?


Larry Thompson

The tty command in Unix shell scripting is a powerful tool that allows users to interact with the system’s terminal. It stands for “teletypewriter” and is commonly used to provide a text-based interface for input and output operations.

What Does the tty Command Do?

The main use of the tty command is to determine the terminal device associated with the standard input, output, or error streams. It provides information about the current terminal session, such as its device file name and other attributes.

By executing the tty command in a shell script or directly in the terminal, you can obtain valuable information about your current terminal session.

How to Use the tty Command?

To use the tty command, simply open your preferred Unix shell (such as Bash) and type tty followed by pressing Enter. The command will display the device file name associated with your terminal.

You can also assign the output of the tty command to a variable in your shell script for further usage. This can be particularly useful when you need to perform different actions based on the current terminal session.



# Assigning tty output to a variable

echo "Current terminal device: $current_tty"

# Perform actions based on current tty
if [[ "$current_tty" == "/dev/tty1" ]]; then
    echo "You are using tty1." elif [[ "$current_tty" == "/dev/tty2" ]]; then
    echo "You are using tty2." 

    echo "You are using another tty." fi

In this example, the script assigns the output of the tty command to the current_tty variable and then displays a different message based on the value of this variable.

Additional Uses and Options

Besides determining the current terminal device, the tty command can be used with various options to perform other useful tasks. Some of these options include:

  • -s: Suppresses any output and returns an exit status indicating if the standard input is a terminal.
  • -a: Prints a list of all terminal devices.
  • -L: Prints a list of all currently logged-in users along with their terminal devices.

The tty command is versatile and can be combined with other Unix commands and shell scripting techniques to enhance your overall workflow and automate various tasks involving terminals.


The tty command in Unix shell scripting provides valuable information about terminal devices. It helps you determine the current terminal session and perform different actions based on it. By incorporating the tty command into your scripts, you can create more interactive and dynamic experiences for users interacting with your shell applications.

Remember to explore additional options and experiment with different combinations of Unix commands to fully leverage the capabilities offered by the tty command in your scripting endeavors.

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