Shell scripting and brace expansion

by on December 18, 2005 · 2 comments· LAST UPDATED December 18, 2005


Expansion is performed on the command line after it has been split into words. Brace expansion is a mechanism by which arbitrary strings may be generated. A sequence expression takes the form {x..y}, where x and y are either integers or single characters. Simple bash brace expansion example:

$ echo F{1,2,3,4,5}
F1 F2 F3 F4 F5

It works with almost any command:

$ mkdir -p /home/project/{sales,purchase,reports}

It is funny but some time you can stuck in shell scripting very badly and you do not understand what is going on ... For example I need to expand hostnames using,, then I can use brace expansion at shell prompt as follows:

$ echo host{1..5}

Now try it in a shell script:

for i in $HOSTS
ping $i
# rest of logic

And then executed script by typing command:

$ ./myscript host{1..5} 

It will not expand to, :/? It took me more than two hours, finally while chatting with my friend he told me to replace HOSTS="$1" with HOSTS="$@". Bingo it worked!
According to bash man page,"A sequence expression takes the form {x..y}, where x and y are either integers or single characters. When integers are supplied, the expression expands to each number between x and y, inclusive. When characters are supplied, the expression expands to each character lexicographically between x and y, inclusive. Note that both x and y must be of the same type". $@ is a special shell variable which. expands to the positional parameters, starting from one. When the expansion occurs within double quotes, each parameter expands to a separate word. I must admit I need to master shell shell scripting skills ;)

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 riscphree December 18, 2005 at 3:10 pm

albeit simple, thats pretty sweet. I didnt know how to do that :D


2 abhishek March 7, 2013 at 5:54 am

I am trying to understand a shell script
this is used to count the number of files in a directory

declare -a args=( “$@” )
echo ${#args[@]} # count the elements of the array args

bash *pdf will give you the correct number of pdf files.

Can you explain how does this work or how is it getting expanded specially in first line
(“$@”) why the bracket () is used here and in second line args[@] what does this gets expanded to?


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