Linux Tactic

Mastering the Basics of Shell Scripting: A Comprehensive Introduction

Introduction to Shell Scripting

If you’re a computer user, you’ve probably heard of Shell Scripting at some point. Simply put, Shell Scripting is a basic code programmed in a shell, which is a program that helps interact with the Operating System (OS).

This article aims to provide a comprehensive introduction to Shell Scripting, with a focus on the purpose of Shell Scripting, and an overview of Shell and its interaction with the OS.

Purpose of Shell Scripting

Shell Scripting serves a wide range of purposes, but its most common use is in automating tasks. Tasks such as file manipulation, software installation, backups, and system maintenance are some examples of tasks that can be automated using Shell Scripting.

It is also useful for creating custom commands, performing operations not provided by the Operating System, or when there is a need for a specific workflow.

Overview of Shell and its Interaction with OS

Without going too technical, the shell is a program that accepts text commands and executes them in the Operating System (OS). The most common shell is the Bash Shell, which is available on most Linux, macOS and Unix systems.

One distinct feature of the shell is that it runs in a terminal, a command-line interface that allows users to interact with the OS by typing in commands. In short, it is a text-based interface used for executing commands in the OS.

When a user types in a command in the terminal, the shell interprets and executes the command in the OS kernel.

Creating a Shell Script

Now that we have an idea of what Shell Scripting is, let us delve into the process of creating a basic shell script. A shell script is simply a plain text file that contains commands that can be executed via the shell by running the script.

Below are the steps involved in creating a shell script.

Text Editors for Creating Shell Scripts

Before writing a shell script, one needs a text editor to create and save the script. There are various text editors available in the market, but the two most commonly used editors are Nano and Vim.

Creating a Shell Script in Vim

For this demonstration, we’ll be using the Vim editor to create a basic shell script. Vim is a text editor that is available on most Unix-like systems, including macOS, and is considered a powerful text editor because of its extensive selection of commands.

Let’s create a basic script that prints out a message when executed. To open Vim editor, type `vim` in the terminal and hit enter.

This will create an empty file called in the current directory, and open it in Vim editor. Type in the following command:



echo “Hello, World!”


The first line `#!/bin/bash` is called a shebang.

It tells the OS that the file is a shell script that needs to be executed by the bash shell. The second line `echo “Hello, World!”` prints out the specified text when the script is executed.

Saving a Shell Script in Vim

After typing in the script, the next step is saving it. Saving files in Vim follows a unique process, especially for beginners.

To save the script, do the following:

1. Press the escape key (Esc) to exit Insert mode.

2. Type `:` followed by `w` and hit enter.

This saves the changes made to the file. 3.

To exit the Vim editor, type `:` followed by `q` and hit enter. Suppose you encounter a “read-only” error when trying to save changes due to restrictions to the file you’re attempting to save.

In that case, you can add a `!` at the end of the save command to override the restriction. Therefore, to save the edited file forcefully, add an `!` at the end like this: `:w!`.


In conclusion, Shell Scripting is a powerful tool that simplifies tasks and automates operations that would otherwise be cumbersome to carry out manually. In addition, the Bash shell is versatile and has various useful commands that can be invoked using shell scripts.

In the next article, we’ll dive deeper in

to Shell Scripting and go through more advanced concepts.

Adding Comments and Using Variables in Shell Scripts

In the previous section, we briefly introduced the basics of Shell Scripting. In this section, we’re going to explore two essential concepts in Shell Scripting – Adding Comments and Using Variables.

Adding Comments in Shell Scripts

A comment is a line of text that is not executed when the shell script is run. The purpose of adding comments to a shell script is to help users understand the code and its purpose.

In a Shell Script, a comment is indicated by the `#` operator. Any line beginning with this operator is considered a comment and is ignored when the script is executed.

Below is an example of how to add a comment in a shell script:



# This script prints out the current date and time

echo “The current date and time is: $(date +%c)”


In this example, the comment is on line 2, explaining what the script Variables in Shell Scripts

In Shell Scripting, a variable is simply a name that represents a value. Variables can be used to store and manipulate data, thus making shell scripts more powerful and flexible.

Assigning and Outputting Variable Values

To assign a value to a variable, use the following syntax:




Here, the `variable_name` is the name of the variable, and `value` is the value you want to assign to the variable.

To output the value of a variable, precede the variable name with a `$` sign.

Here’s an example of how to assign and output a variable value:



my_name=”John Doe”

echo “My name is $my_name”


In this example, the script assigns the value “John Doe” to the `my_name` variable and then outputs the value using the `echo` command.

Taking Input from User for Variables

In some cases, you may want the user to provide input to a variable. You can use the `read` command to achieve this.

The syntax for the `read` command is as follows:


read variable_name


Here, the `variable_name` is the name of the variable to which you want to assign the user’s input. Below is an example of how to use the `read` command in a script:



echo “What is your name?”

read my_name

echo “Hello, $my_name!”


In this example, the script prompts the user to enter their name. The `read` command captures the user’s input and assigns it to the `my_name` variable.

Finally, the script outputs a personalized greeting using the user’s name.

Importance of Shell Scripting and Further Learning

Now that we have covered the basics of Shell Scripting let’s discuss its significance and explore further areas of learning.

Significance of Shell Scripting for Task Automation

Shell Scripting is an essential tool for task automation in the Operating System. It provides a convenient way to automate repetitive tasks, increase efficiency, and save time.

Tasks like file management, system maintenance, and backups can be performed quickly and efficiently through Shell Scripting, thus minimizing human involvement and potential for errors.

Summary of Basic Shell Scripting Concepts

To summarize, Shell Scripting is a powerful way to interact with the Operating System using text-based commands. Basic concepts such as adding comments, using variables, and taking input from users are essential building blocks of Shell Scripting.

Further Exploration in Shell Scripting

There’s a lot you can learn in Shell Scripting beyond the basics we’ve covered in this article. Some advanced features include conditional statements, loops, and functions that can take your scripts to the next level.

To continue learning, consider taking online courses, reading books on Shell Scripting, or experimenting with new features in your own projects.


In this article, we have explored the basics of Shell Scripting. We’ve learned how to add comments to scripts, use variables and take input from users.

We have also discussed the reasons why Shell Scripting is vital and some possible areas of further learning. With this knowledge, you are well on your way to becoming a proficient shell scripter who can create scripts that automate complicated tasks in the Operating System.

This article provides a comprehensive introduction to Shell Scripting, a valuable tool for interacting with Operating Systems using text-based commands. We’ve covered the critical topics of adding comments, using variables, and taking user input.

We’ve also highlighted the significance of Shell Scripting in automating repetitive tasks, increasing efficiency, and saving time. This article has shown that Shell Scripting is a powerful skill that offers significant benefits to anyone who wants to optimize their workflow in the Operating System.

By continuing to learn and explore Shell Scripting, users can gain more advanced features and benefit from the flexibility that custom programming can provide.

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