Unix shells when starting read the
.bashrc file and execute commands written in it. What is this file and what does it execute?
bash specifically that reads
/etc/bash.bashrc). There are lots of different shells.
When an interactive shell that is not a login shell is started, bash reads and executes commands from
~/.bashrc, if that file exists. This may be inhibited by using the
--rcfilefile option will force bash to read and execute commands from file instead of
When bash is started non-interactively, to run a shell script, for example, it looks for the variable
BASH_ENVin the environment, expands its value if it appears there, and uses the expanded value as the name of a file to read and execute. Bash behaves as if the following command were executed:
if [ -n "$BASH_ENV" ]; then . "$BASH_ENV"; fi
but the value of the
PATHvariable is not used to search for the file name.
The file is just shell commands. It is typically used to change prompts, set environment variables, and define shell procedures. Traditionally, the file
.profile is used for this purpose, but
bash has so many extensions that it needs its own startup file for users that want to put bashisms in startup files.
"Not a login shell" means things like script launches and usually terminal windows started by window managers. Sometimes I set up *nix systems to have
BASH_ENV just source
.profile. As long as you don't stray outside of POSIX shell commands then you will get the same initialization in any shell.
It's particularly valuable when
sh is really
bash, which sometimes happens. To do this use:
One reason this is all so complex is because sometimes people put things that produce output into shell startup files, or they unconditionally set prompts. This causes lots of problems when running shell programs and backtick commands within languages, not to mention
system(3) from C programs. The way
bash starts up is designed, I think, to have one file where output and prompt setting is OK and one file where it isn't. Traditionally, a run-time test would be done to distinguish interactivity, for example, checking to see if the prompt is set.
When Bash starts, it executes the commands in a variety of different scripts.
When Bash is invoked as an interactive login shell, it first reads and executes commands from the file /etc/profile, if that file exists. After reading that file, it looks for ~/.bash_profile, ~/.bash_login, and ~/.profile, in that order, and reads and executes commands from the first one that exists and is readable.
When a login shell exits, Bash reads and executes commands from the file ~/.bash_logout, if it exists.
When an interactive shell that is not a login shell is started, Bash reads and executes commands from ~/.bashrc, if that file exists. This may be inhibited by using the --norc option. The --rcfile file option will force Bash to read and execute commands from file instead of ~/.bashrc.
Here are some tricks and tips:
Let us try to set the prompt so that it can display today’d date and hostname:
PS1="\d \h $ "
It should contain various "initialization" commands for your shell, e.g.:
- Creating useful aliases (for example
alias ll='ls -l').
- Adding more directories to PATH.
- Setting new environment variables.