Beauty is more than skin deep.
This is the final section in the tutorial and I'd like to use it to discuss a very important topic (which is often neglected) the user interface. I've touched on various points regarding the user interface throughout the tutorial but here I'll bring them all together and introduce a few other concepts as well.
When most people think about the user interface they think about the bits the end user sees and how they interact with the tool. For Bash scripts I like to think about the layout and structure of the commands inside the script as well. Bash scripts are often small tools used to automate tedious and repetitive tasks. They are always readable by the end user and often modified to suit changing requirements. Therefore the ease with which the user (often yourself) may modify and extend the script is also very important.
tput is a command which allows you to control the cursor on the terminal and the format of content that is printed. It is quite a powerful and complex tool so I'll introduce some of the basics here but leave it up to you to do further research.
Here is an example printing a message in the center of the screen.
Let's break it down:
Note: Normally the first prompt (where we run the script) would be removed with the clear command. We have left it here only so you can see that it was run to get the script started.
With tput and a bit of creativity you can create some really interesting effects. Especially so if you delay actions using the command sleep. Only use it when appropriate however. Most of the time just printing the processed data (without formatting) is more convenient for the user.
Remember there are 3 ways in which you may supply data to a Bash script:
Your script may use one or a combination of these but should always aim to be the most convenient for the user.
Command line arguments are good as they will be retained in the users history making it easy for them to rerun commands. Command line arguments are also convenient when the script is not run directly by the user (eg, as part of another script or a cron task etc).
Redirected from STDIN is good when your script is behaving like a filter and just modifying or reformatting data that is fed to it.
Reading interactively is good when you don't know what data may be required until the script is already running. eg. You may need to clarify some suspicious or erroneous input. Passwords are also ideally asked for this way so they aren't kept as plain text in the users history.
Think about how strict you are going to be with supplied data as well. The more flexible you can be the happier the end user is going to be. Think of someone supplying a date as an argument. They could supply the date as:
We could write our script to insist on input in only one particular format. This would be easiest for us but potentially not convenient for the end user. What if they want to feed the date in as provided from another command or source that provides it in a different format?
We should always aim to be most convenient for the end user as oposed to ourselves. After all, we'll write it once but they will run it many times.
The command sed can easily allow us to accommodate many formats for input data.
Remember that the terminal and the nature of the commands you use there are typically a little different to your normal interaction with computers in a graphical user interface. Again we want what is most convenient for the user. Often this is just to print the output as a plain result, without any formatting or fancy messages surrounding it. Then it is easiest for the user to redirect the output into other commands for further processing or to a file for saving.
Presentation of your code is very important and you should take pride in it. Good structure makes it easier for you to see what the code is doing and harder to make silly mistakes (which can easily waste a lot of time or potentially worse if you don't realise the mistake).
It's common to take the approach of 'yeah yeah, that's other people though, I don't make those silly mistakes so I can be lazy and write sloppy code and it'll be fine.' Everyone can make mistakes, even NASA. Take the time to structure your code well and later on you'll be thankful you did.
Ok so you've worked through my Bash tutorial. Congratulations, you've now aquired some very powerful and useful skills and knowledge. Next you need to gain experience. You're Bash scripting foo is no doubt reasonably good now but it will only get better with practice.
Speaking of practice, why not try some of our programming challenges.
Remember too that this tutorial is not a complete reference on Bash scripting. I've tried to cover the most important and essential bits. For a lot of you this will be more than enough to automate tasks and make your interaction with Linux much happier. For others, you will want to take things further and there is much more to Bash that you can learn. You now have a solid foundation to launch from and should have no troubles extending your abilities. Either way, I hope your experiences with Linux are, and continue to be, awesome and I wish you the best of luck.
Also, if you have any feedback on this tutorial (or any of my others) I would be happy to hear from you. It could be a typo you have spotted, or some other error, a bit you feel could be written more clearly, or just that you found it useful. While I can't guarantee to act upon all feedback I do very much appreciate it.
You may drop me a message at
More importantly (especially if you found this tutorial useful), don't keep it a secret. The best way to say thank you is to make sure you share this tutorial on social media (Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus or whatever the hip and happening social platform of today is), give us a shout out on your blog, tell your friends and co-workers, etc.