3.6. More Bash options

3.6.1. Displaying options

We already discussed a couple of Bash options that are useful for debugging your scripts. In this section, we will take a more in-depth view of the Bash options.

Use the -o option to set to display all shell options:

willy:~> set -o
allexport		off
braceexpand		on
emacs			on
errexit			off
hashall			on
histexpand		on
history			on
ignoreeof		off
interactive-comments	on
keyword			off
monitor			on
noclobber		off
noexec			off
noglob			off
nolog			off
notify			off
nounset			off
onecmd			off
physical		off
posix			off
privileged		off
verbose			off
vi			off
xtrace			off

See the Bash Info pages, section Shell Built-in Commands->The Set Built-in for a description of each option. A lot of options have one-character shorthands: the xtrace option, for instance, is equal to specifying set -x.

3.6.2. Changing options

Shell options can either be set different from the default upon calling the shell, or be set during shell operation. They may also be included in the shell resource configuration files.

The following command executes a script in POSIX-compatible mode:

willy:~/scripts> bash --posix script.sh

For changing the current environment temporarily, or for use in a script, we would rather use set. Use - (dash) for enabling an option, + for disabling:

willy:~/test> set -o noclobber

willy:~/test> touch test

willy:~/test> date > test
bash: test: cannot overwrite existing file

willy:~/test> set +o noclobber

willy:~/test> date > test

The above example demonstrates the noclobber option, which prevents existing files from being overwritten by redirection operations. The same goes for one-character options, for instance -u, which will treat unset variables as an error when set, and exits a non-interactive shell upon encountering such errors:

willy:~> echo $VAR

willy:~> set -u

willy:~> echo $VAR
bash: VAR: unbound variable

This option is also useful for detecting incorrect content assignment to variables: the same error will also occur, for instance, when assigning a character string to a variable that was declared explicitly as one holding only integer values.

One last example follows, demonstrating the noglob option, which prevents special characters from being expanded:

willy:~/testdir> set -o noglob

willy:~/testdir> touch *

willy:~/testdir> ls -l *
-rw-rw-r--    1 willy    willy		0 Feb 27 13:37 *