The basic file "list" command. It is all too easy to underestimate the power of this humble command. For example, using the -R, recursive option, ls provides a tree-like listing of a directory structure. Other interesting options are -S, sort listing by file size, -t, sort by file modification time, and -i, show file inodes (see Example 12-4).
Example 12-1. Using ls to create a table of contents for burning a CDR disk
#!/bin/bash # burn-cd.sh # Script to automate burning a CDR. SPEED=2 # May use higher speed if your hardware supports it. IMAGEFILE=cdimage.iso CONTENTSFILE=contents DEFAULTDIR=/opt # This is the directory containing the data to be burned. # Make sure it exists. # Exercise: Add a test for this. # Uses Joerg Schilling's "cdrecord" package: # http://www.fokus.fhg.de/usr/schilling/cdrecord.html # If this script invoked as an ordinary user, need to suid cdrecord #+ chmod u+s /usr/bin/cdrecord, as root. # Of course, this creates a security hole, though a relatively minor one. if [ -z "$1" ] then IMAGE_DIRECTORY=$DEFAULTDIR # Default directory, if not specified on command line. else IMAGE_DIRECTORY=$1 fi # Create a "table of contents" file. ls -lRF $IMAGE_DIRECTORY > $IMAGE_DIRECTORY/$CONTENTSFILE # The "l" option gives a "long" file listing. # The "R" option makes the listing recursive. # The "F" option marks the file types (directories get a trailing /). echo "Creating table of contents." # Create an image file preparatory to burning it onto the CDR. mkisofs -r -o $IMAGEFILE $IMAGE_DIRECTORY echo "Creating ISO9660 file system image ($IMAGEFILE)." # Burn the CDR. cdrecord -v -isosize speed=$SPEED dev=0,0 $IMAGEFILE echo "Burning the disk." echo "Please be patient, this will take a while." exit 0
cat, an acronym for concatenate, lists a file to stdout. When combined with redirection (> or >>), it is commonly used to concatenate files.
# Uses of 'cat' cat filename # Lists the file. cat file.1 file.2 file.3 > file.123 # Combines three files into one.
tac, is the inverse of cat, listing a file backwards from its end.
reverses each line of a file, and outputs to stdout. This is not the same effect as tac, as it preserves the order of the lines, but flips each one around.
bash$ cat file1.txt This is line 1. This is line 2. bash$ tac file1.txt This is line 2. This is line 1. bash$ rev file1.txt .1 enil si sihT .2 enil si sihT
This is the file copy command. cp file1 file2 copies file1 to file2, overwriting file2 if it already exists (see Example 12-6).
Particularly useful are the -a archive flag (for copying an entire directory tree) and the -r and -R recursive flags.
This is the file move command. It is equivalent to a combination of cp and rm. It may be used to move multiple files to a directory, or even to rename a directory. For some examples of using mv in a script, see Example 9-17 and Example A-3.
When used in a non-interactive script, mv takes the -f (force) option to bypass user input.
When a directory is moved to a preexisting directory, it becomes a subdirectory of the destination directory.
Delete (remove) a file or files. The -f option forces removal of even readonly files, and is useful for bypassing user input in a script.
The rm command will, by itself, fail to remove filenames beginning with a dash.
The way to accomplish this is to preface the filename to be removed with a dot-slash .
When used with the recursive flag -r, this command removes files all the way down the directory tree from the current directory.
Remove directory. The directory must be empty of all files, including invisible "dotfiles",  for this command to succeed.
Make directory, creates a new directory. For example, mkdir -p project/programs/December creates the named directory. The -p option automatically creates any necessary parent directories.
Changes the attributes of an existing file (see Example 11-11).
chmod +x filename # Makes "filename" executable for all users. chmod u+s filename # Sets "suid" bit on "filename" permissions. # An ordinary user may execute "filename" with same privileges as the file's owner. # (This does not apply to shell scripts.)
chmod 644 filename # Makes "filename" readable/writable to owner, readable to # others # (octal mode).
chmod 1777 directory-name # Gives everyone read, write, and execute permission in directory, # however also sets the "sticky bit". # This means that only the owner of the directory, # owner of the file, and, of course, root # can delete any particular file in that directory.
Change file attributes. This has the same effect as chmod above, but with a different invocation syntax, and it works only on an ext2 filesystem.
Creates links to pre-existings files. A "link" is a reference to a file, an alternate name for it. The ln command permits referencing the linked file by more than one name and is a superior alternative to aliasing (see Example 4-6).
The ln creates only a reference, a pointer to the file only a few bytes in size.
The ln command is most often used with the -s, symbolic or "soft" link flag. An advantage of using the -s flag is that it permits linking across file systems.
The syntax of the command is a bit tricky. For example: ln -s oldfile newfile links the previously existing oldfile to the newly created link, newfile.
If a file named newfile has previously existed, it will be deleted when the filename newfile is preempted as the name for a link.
Which type of link to use?
As John Macdonald explains it:
Both of these provide a certain measure of dual reference -- if you edit the contents of the file using any name, your changes will affect both the original name and either a hard or soft new name. The differences between them occurs when you work at a higher level. The advantage of a hard link is that the new name is totally independent of the old name -- if you remove or rename the old name, that does not affect the hard link, which continues to point to the data while it would leave a soft link hanging pointing to the old name which is no longer there. The advantage of a soft link is that it can refer to a different file system (since it is just a reference to a file name, not to actual data).
Links give the ability to invoke a script (or any other type of executable) with multiple names, and having that script behave according to how it was invoked.
Example 12-2. Hello or Good-bye
#!/bin/bash # hello.sh: Saying "hello" or "goodbye" #+ depending on how script is invoked. # Make a link in current working directory ($PWD) to this script: # ln -s hello.sh goodbye # Now, try invoking this script both ways: # ./hello.sh # ./goodbye HELLO_CALL=65 GOODBYE_CALL=66 if [ $0 = "./goodbye" ] then echo "Good-bye!" # Some other goodbye-type commands, as appropriate. exit $GOODBYE_CALL fi echo "Hello!" # Some other hello-type commands, as appropriate. exit $HELLO_CALL
These commands access the manual and information pages on system commands and installed utilities. When available, the info pages usually contain a more detailed description than do the man pages.
These are files whose names begin with a dot, such as ~/.Xdefaults. Such filenames do not show up in a normal ls listing, and they cannot be deleted by an accidental rm -rf *. Dotfiles are generally used as setup and configuration files in a user's home directory.