Posts tagged "variable"

Substitution operators

Substitution operators are used for expanding parameters and variable values.


${variablename:-some word}

-If varname exists and isn’t null, return its value; otherwise return word.

Purpose: Returning a default value if the variable is undefined.

[root@euve59329 ~]# echo ${PWDx:-non existent variable}
non existent variable

– If varname exists and isn’t null, return its value; otherwise set it to
word and then return its value. Positional and special parameters

[root@euve59329 ~]# echo ${ID:=0}

– ID variable does not exist. In this case, the value is set to 0.

Purpose:Setting a variable to a default value if it is undefined.


If varname exists and isn’t null, return its value; otherwise print
varname: followed by message, and abort the current command or
script (non-interactive shells only). Omitting message produces the
default message parameter null or not set.


[root@euve59329 ~]# echo ${thevariable:?does not exist}
bash: thevariable: does not exist
[root@euve59329 ~]#

– Purpose: Catching errors that result from variables being undefined.


[root@euve59329 ~]# echo ${count:+1}
[root@euve59329 ~]# echo ${countX:+1}

Purpose: Testing for the existence of a variable.
Example: ${count:+1} returns 1 (which could mean “true”) if count is




Performs substring expansion.[5] It returns the substring of $varname
starting at offset and up to length characters. The first character in
$varname is position 0. If length is omitted, the substring starts at
offset and continues to the end of $varname. If offset is less than 0 then
the position is taken from the end of $varname. If varname is @, the
length is the number of positional parameters starting at parameter
Purpose: Returning parts of a string (substrings or slices).


[root@euve59329 ~]# count=MyCoolText
[root@euve59329 ~]# echo ${count:4}
[root@euve59329 ~]# echo ${count:4:4}
[root@euve59329 ~]#

Inspired from Learning the bash Shell: Unix Shell Programming (In a Nutshell (O’Reilly))

View Linux BASH history

In case you are wondering how to review your latest commands entered in your favorite Unix shell, below you have more than one option to achieve this goal.

The first and most known way is using the history command:


By typing  history in your Linux shell will show on your screen the latest commands you entered with the user you are currently logged in.

It is important to mention that the Unix/Linux way of storing your history is pretty simple: basically the OS just stores your commands in a text file. That file can differ from one distro to another, but you can view the exact location of that file by typing echo $HISTFILE. You can see a sample below:



Knowing the file (location) the ways you can manipulate the output are multiple. For example:

cat  $HISTFILE | more    #(you can use less too)

histfile variable


View the history in a text editor:


View only specific columns:

history | cut -d' ' -f 4-

history cut


View only the last 20 lines:

history | tail -n 20

Or view the:

  • last 5 “yum-install” commands from your history file:
history | grep "yum-install" | tail -n 5
  • First 5 commands that contain “yum”
history | grep yum | head

history head