Which Command Is Used to Debug Shell Scripting?


Larry Thompson

When it comes to debugging shell scripting, there is a handy command that can save you hours of frustration and help you identify and fix issues in your scripts. This command is called set -x.

What does the set -x command do

The set -x command, also known as the shell tracing command, enables a debugging mode in your shell script. When this mode is activated, each line of the script is printed to the terminal before it is executed. This allows you to see exactly what commands are being executed and how variables are being manipulated.

This feature is especially useful when you are facing issues with your script and need to understand where things might be going wrong. By examining the output of the set -x command, you can identify any errors or unexpected behavior that might be occurring.

How to use the set -x command

To use the set -x command, simply add it at the beginning of your shell script. The syntax for enabling debugging mode is as follows:

set -x
# Rest of your script goes here


  • If you only want to enable debugging for a specific section of your script, you can enclose that section within a pair of parentheses or curly braces.
  • To disable debugging mode, use the command set +x.
  • The output generated by the set -x command can be quite verbose, especially for larger scripts. It’s important to use this command judiciously and only when necessary.


Let’s consider a simple example to understand how the set -x command works:

set -x
echo "This is a debug example"
VAR="Hello, World!"
echo $VAR

When you run the script with debugging mode enabled, you will see the following output:

+ echo 'This is a debug example'
This is a debug example
+ VAR='Hello, World!' + echo 'Hello, World!' 

Hello, World! 

The lines starting with + represent the commands being executed. This output clearly shows the commands being run and the values of variables at each step.

In conclusion,

The set -x command is an essential tool for debugging shell scripts. It allows you to trace the execution of your script and gain valuable insights into any issues or unexpected behavior. By using this command strategically, you can save time and effort in identifying and fixing bugs in your shell scripts.

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