How to use a here documents to write data to a file in bash script

Posted on in Categories , , last updated November 16, 2017

How do I use a heredoc redirection feature (here documents) to write data to a file in my bash shell scripts?

A here document is nothing but I/O redirection that tells the bash shell to read input from the current source until a line containing only delimiter is seen.
redirect output of here document to a text file
This is useful for providing commands to ftp, cat, echo, ssh and many other useful Linux/Unix commands. This feature should work with bash or Bourne/Korn/POSIX shell too.

heredoc syntax

The syntax is:

command <<EOF
cmd1
cmd2 arg1
EOF

OR allow here-documents within shell scripts to be indented in a natural fashion using EOF<<-

command <<-EOF
  msg1
  msg2 
 $var on line 
EOF

OR

command <<'EOF'
 cmd1
 cmd2 arg1
 $var won't expand as parameter substitution turned off
 by single quoting 
EOF

OR redirect and overwrite it to a file named my_output_file.txt:

command <<EOF > my_output_file.txt
 mesg1
 msg2
 msg3
 $var on $foo
EOF

OR redirect and append it to a file named my_output_file.txt:

command <<EOF >> my_output_file.txt
 mesg1
 msg2
 msg3
 $var on $foo
EOF

Examples

The following script will write the needed contents to a file named /tmp/output.txt:

#!/bin/bash
OUT=/tmp/output.txt
 
echo "Starting my script..."
echo "Doing something..."
 
cat <<EOF >$OUT
  Status of backup as on $(date)
  Backing up files $HOME and /etc/
EOF
 
echo "Starting backup using rsync..."

You can view /tmp/output.txt with the cat command:
$ cat /tmp/output.txt
Sample outputs:

  Status of backup as on Thu Nov 16 17:00:21 IST 2017
  Backing up files /home/vivek and /etc/

Disabling pathname/parameter/variable expansion, command substitution, arithmetic expansion

Variable such as $HOME and command such as $(date) were interpreted substitution in script. To disable it use single quotes with ‘EOF’ as follows:

#!/bin/bash
OUT=/tmp/output.txt
 
echo "Starting my script..."
echo "Doing something..."
# No parameter and variable expansion, command substitution, arithmetic expansion, or pathname expansion is performed on word.  
# If any part of word is quoted, the delimiter  is  the  result  of  quote removal  on word, and the lines in the here-document 
# are not expanded. So EOF is quoted as follows
cat <<'EOF' >$OUT
  Status of backup as on $(date)
  Backing up files $HOME and /etc/
EOF
 
echo "Starting backup using rsync..."

You can view /tmp/output.txt with the cat command:
$ cat /tmp/output.txt
Sample outputs:

  Status of backup as on $(date)
  Backing up files $HOME and /etc/

A note about using tee command

The syntax is:

tee /tmp/filename <<EOF >/dev/null
line 1
line 2
line 3
$(cmd)
$var on $foo
EOF

Or disable variable substitution/command substitution by quoting EOF in a single quote:

tee /tmp/filename <<'EOF' >/dev/null
line 1
line 2
line 3
$(cmd)
$var on $foo
EOF

Here is my updated script:

#!/bin/bash
OUT=/tmp/output.txt
 
echo "Starting my script..."
echo "Doing something..."
 
tee $OUT <<EOF >/dev/null
  Status of backup as on $(date)
  Backing up files $HOME and /etc/
EOF
 
echo "Starting backup using rsync..."

A note about using in-memory here-docs

Here is my updated script:

#!/bin/bash
OUT=/tmp/output.txt
 
## in memory here docs 
## thanks https://twitter.com/freebsdfrau
exec 9<<EOF
  Status of backup as on $(date)
  Backing up files $HOME and /etc/
EOF
 
## continue
echo "Starting my script..."
echo "Doing something..."
 
## do it
cat <&9 >$OUT
 
echo "Starting backup using rsync..."

Posted by: Vivek Gite

The author is the creator of nixCraft and a seasoned sysadmin and a trainer for the Linux operating system/Unix shell scripting. He has worked with global clients and in various industries, including IT, education, defense and space research, and the nonprofit sector. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+.

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