Classic Shell Scripting

Classic Shell Scripting

by Arnold Robbins & Nelson H. F. Beebe

The Unix shell is to command line interfaces what the Mac is to the GUI: elegant. Unix commands are verbs, modified by adverbs (flags), acting on nouns (files). Take the following example:

cat -n simple.txt

The command (or verb) cat is short for "concatenate and print." It acts on the file (or noun) simple.txt, printing the file contents to screen. The flag (or adverb) -n modifies the command, instructing it to print line numbers.

The pipe | is an "and," the semicolon : a "then." With these and other combinations it is possible to construct complex statements. Classic Shell Scripting is very much a grammar and vocabulary guide for Unix systems.

Shell commands, often called tools, are most commonly used for text manipulation, and can be thought of as filters through which the text flows. A shell script pieces together a series of commands to create a more advanced tool. Classic Shell Scripting introduces the reader to a variety of useful tools and explains how to connect them using a shell script.

The book is not specific to Mac OS X and does not cover Mac-only commands such as pbcopy/pbpaste and open. The commands and features it does cover, however, are entirely relevant to Mac OS X, as they are to Linux or *BSD. If you can find your way around with Apple's Terminal, Classic Shell Scripting is an excellent choice of books to take your unix skills to the next level.

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