Linux Instruments: The That means of Dot


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Let’s face it: writing one-liners and scripts utilizing shell instructions may be complicated. Lots of the names of the instruments at your disposal are removed from apparent when it comes to what they do (grep, tee and awk, anybody?) and, whenever you mix two or extra, the ensuing “sentence” appears like some type of alien gobbledygook.

Not one of the above is helped by the truth that most of the symbols you utilize to construct a sequence of directions can imply various things relying on their context.

Location, location, location

Take the common-or-garden dot (.) for instance. Used with directions which are anticipating the title of a listing, it means “this listing” so this:

discover . -name “*.jpg”

interprets to “discover on this listing (and all its subdirectories) recordsdata which have names that finish in .jpg”.

Each ls . and cd . act as anticipated, so that they checklist and “change” to the present listing, respectively, though together with the dot in these two circumstances just isn’t essential.

Two dots, one after the opposite, in the identical context (i.e., when your instruction is anticipating a listing path) means “the listing instantly above the present one”. If you’re in /dwelling/your_directory and run

cd ..

you may be taken to /dwelling. So, it’s possible you’ll suppose this nonetheless type of suits into the “dots symbolize close by directories” narrative and isn’t difficult in any respect, proper?

How about this, then? For those who use a dot initially of a listing or file, it means the listing or file might be hidden:

$ contact somedir/file01.txt somedir/file02.txt somedir/.secretfile.txt
$ ls -l somedir/
whole zero
-rw-r–r– 1 paul paul zero Jan 13 19:57 file01.txt
-rw-r–r– 1 paul paul zero Jan 13 19:57 file02.txt
$ # Word how there isn’t any .secretfile.txt within the itemizing above
$ ls -la somedir/
whole eight
drwxr-xr-x 2 paul paul 4096 Jan 13 19:57 .
drwx—— 48 paul paul 4096 Jan 13 19:57 ..
-rw-r–r– 1 paul paul zero Jan 13 19:57 file01.txt
-rw-r–r– 1 paul paul zero Jan 13 19:57 file02.txt
-rw-r–r– 1 paul paul zero Jan 13 19:57 .secretfile.txt
$ # The -a choice tells ls to point out “all” recordsdata, together with the hidden ones

After which there’s whenever you use . as a command. Yep! You heard me: . is a full-fledged command. It’s a synonym of supply and you utilize that to execute a file within the present shell, versus operating a script another method (which normally imply Bash will spawn a brand new shell by which to run it).

Confused? Don’t be concerned — do this: Create a script referred to as myscript that accommodates the road


and execute it the common method, that’s, with sh myscript (or by making the script executable with chmod a+x myscript after which operating ./myscript). Now try to see the contents of myvar with echo $myvar (spoiler: You’ll get nothing). It’s because, when your script plunks “Hiya” into myvar, it does so in a separate bash shell occasion. When the script ends, the spawned occasion disappears and management returns to the unique shell, the place myvar by no means even existed.

Nonetheless, should you run myscript like this:

. myscript

echo $myvar will print Hiya to the command line.

You’ll typically use the . (or supply) command after making adjustments to your .bashrc file, like when it’s worthwhile to increase your PATH variable. You utilize . to make the adjustments out there instantly in your present shell occasion.

Double Hassle

Identical to the seemingly insignificant single dot has multiple which means, so has the double dot. Aside from pointing to the father or mother of the present listing, the double dot (..) can also be used to construct sequences.

Do that:

echo 1..10

It’ll print out the checklist of numbers from 1 to 10. On this context, .. means “beginning with the worth on my left, depend as much as the worth on my proper”.

Now do this:


You will get 1 three 5 7 9. The ..2 a part of the command tells Bash to print the sequence, however not one after the other, however two by two. In different phrases, you may get all of the odd numbers from 1 to 10.

It really works backwards, too:

echo 10..1..2

You too can pad your numbers with 0s. Doing:

echo 000..121..2

will print out each even quantity from zero to 121 like this:

000 zero02 004 006 … 050 052 054 … 116 118 120

However how is that this sequence-generating assemble helpful? Effectively, suppose considered one of your New Yr’s resolutions is to be extra cautious together with your accounts. As a part of that, you need to create directories by which to categorise your digital invoices of the final 10 years:

mkdir 2009..2019_Invoices

Job performed.

Or perhaps you may have a tons of of numbered recordsdata, say, frames extracted from a video clip, and, for no matter cause, you need to take away solely each third body between the frames 43 and 61:

rm frame_zero43..61..three

It’s doubtless that, if in case you have greater than 100 frames, they are going to be named with padded 0s and seem like this:

frame_000 frame_001 frame_002 …

That’s why you’ll use zero43 in your command as an alternative of simply 43.


Reality be informed, the magic of sequences lies not a lot within the double dot as within the sorcery of the curly braces (). Look the way it works for letters, too. Doing:

contact file_a..z.txt

creates the recordsdata file_a.txt by way of file_z.txt.

You should be cautious, nevertheless. Utilizing a sequence like will run by way of a bunch of non-alphanumeric characters (glyphs which are neither numbers or letters) that reside between the uppercase alphabet and the lowercase one. A few of these glyphs are unprintable or have a particular which means of their very own. Utilizing them to generate names of recordsdata might result in a complete bevy of surprising and probably disagreeable results.

One ultimate factor value stating about sequences encased between … is that they’ll additionally comprise lists of strings:

contact blahg, splurg, mmmf_file.txt

Creates blahg_file.txt, splurg_file.txt and mmmf_file.txt.

In fact, in different contexts, the curly braces have completely different meanings (shock!). However that’s the stuff of one other article.


Bash and the utilities you may run inside it have been formed over a long time by system directors on the lookout for methods to resolve very explicit issues. To say that sysadmins and their methods are their very own breed of particular could be an understatement. Consequently, versus different languages, Bash was not designed to be user-friendly, simple and even logical.

That does not imply it’s not highly effective — fairly the opposite. Bash’s grammar and shell instruments could also be inconsistent and sprawling, however in addition they present a dizzying vary of how to do all the pieces you may probably think about. It’s like having a toolbox the place you’ll find all the pieces from an influence drill to a spoon, in addition to a rubber duck, a roll of duct tape, and a few nail clippers.

Aside from fascinating, additionally it is enjoyable to find all you may obtain instantly from inside the shell, so subsequent time we’ll delve ever deeper into how one can construct larger and higher Bash command traces.

Till then, have enjoyable!

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