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I have the following bash script:

# do some time consuming task here
read -p "Give me some input: " input

Now as you might have guessed, if a user presses some random keys during the "time consuming task", the unwanted input is taken into account as well. How do I clear stdin (or at least ignore it) before I issue the read command?

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Myself, unless you are writing a curses-like program, I find what you wish to do to be a design flaw in your program. UNIX/Linux has the very useful feature of buffering input ("type-ahead") and I commonly make use of this functionality. Coming across your program where you throw away what I typed, I would likely submit a bug and stop using your program until it was fixed. – Arcege Apr 29 '11 at 12:13
Some users have annoying habit of playing piano with their keyboard while their program is busy doing something. I would rather throw away those keystrokes and start fresh. But you're right, the "type-ahead" is useful, but not always. – rabin Apr 29 '11 at 15:52
up vote 8 down vote accepted

I don't think there is a way to clear stdin but (with bash) you can read and discard what is there before you ask for the input

#do some time consuming task here
read -t 1 -n 10000 discard 
read -p "Give me some input: " input

This reads stdin and has a timeout of 1 second, it fails though if there are more than 10000 chars in stdin. I don't know how big you can make the nchars parameter.

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I actually had found this hack on a forum. I was expecting to find a better way of doing it. Apparently not. – rabin Apr 28 '11 at 16:09
@rabin: If you do find a better way post back here I have it in a few scripts. – Iain Apr 28 '11 at 16:11
Unfortunately this doesn't work with all shells, e.g. dash :( – scai Dec 7 '13 at 9:53

In Bash 4, you can set -t (timeout) to 0. In this case, read immediately returns with an exit status indicating whether there's data waiting or not:

# do some time consuming task here
while read -r -t 0; do read -r; done
read -p "Give me some input: " input
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read -d '' -t 0.1 -n 10000

This reads multiple lines of inputs, if the user inadvertently pressed enter multiple times

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Building on christophjaeger's answer, I added -s so that the input is not echoed to the terminal and -n so that it does not wait for a new line.

while read -r -t 0; do
    read -n 256 -r -s
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Enclose the time consuming task in a block whose stdin is closed:

     # time consuming task
} <&-

read -p "Give me some input: " input
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this worked well for me:

function clean_stdin()
    while read -e -t 0.1; do : ; done
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