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10.1. Loops

A loop is a block of code that iterates (repeats) a list of commands as long as the loop control condition is true.

for loops

for arg in [list]

This is the basic looping construct. It differs significantly from its C counterpart.

for arg in [list]
do
�command(s)...
done

Note

During each pass through the loop, arg takes on the value of each successive variable in the list.

for arg in "$var1" "$var2" "$var3" ... "$varN"  
# In pass 1 of the loop, arg = $var1	    
# In pass 2 of the loop, arg = $var2	    
# In pass 3 of the loop, arg = $var3	    
# ...
# In pass N of the loop, arg = $varN

# Arguments in [list] quoted to prevent possible word splitting.

The argument list may contain wild cards.

If do is on same line as for, there needs to be a semicolon after list.

for arg in [list] ; do

Example 10-1. Simple for loops

#!/bin/bash
# Listing the planets.

for planet in Mercury Venus Earth Mars Jupiter Saturn Uranus Neptune Pluto
do
  echo $planet  # Each planet on a separate line.
done

echo

for planet in "Mercury Venus Earth Mars Jupiter Saturn Uranus Neptune Pluto"
# All planets on same line.
# Entire 'list' enclosed in quotes creates a single variable.
do
  echo $planet
done

exit 0

Note

Each [list] element may contain multiple parameters. This is useful when processing parameters in groups. In such cases, use the set command (see Example 11-15) to force parsing of each [list] element and assignment of each component to the positional parameters.

Example 10-2. for loop with two parameters in each [list] element

#!/bin/bash
# Planets revisited.

# Associate the name of each planet with its distance from the sun.

for planet in "Mercury 36" "Venus 67" "Earth 93"  "Mars 142" "Jupiter 483"
do
  set -- $planet  # Parses variable "planet" and sets positional parameters.
  # the "--" prevents nasty surprises if $planet is null or begins with a dash.

  # May need to save original positional parameters, since they get overwritten.
  # One way of doing this is to use an array,
  #        original_params=("$@")

  echo "$1		$2,000,000 miles from the sun"
  #-------two  tabs---concatenate zeroes onto parameter $2
done

# (Thanks, S.C., for additional clarification.)

exit 0

A variable may supply the [list] in a for loop.

Example 10-3. Fileinfo: operating on a file list contained in a variable

#!/bin/bash
# fileinfo.sh

FILES="/usr/sbin/accept
/usr/sbin/pwck
/usr/sbin/chroot
/usr/bin/fakefile
/sbin/badblocks
/sbin/ypbind"     # List of files you are curious about.
                  # Threw in a dummy file, /usr/bin/fakefile.

echo

for file in $FILES
do

  if [ ! -e "$file" ]       # Check if file exists.
  then
    echo "$file does not exist."; echo
    continue                # On to next.
   fi

  ls -l $file | awk '{ print $9 "         file size: " $5 }'  # Print 2 fields.
  whatis `basename $file`   # File info.
  # Note that the whatis database needs to have been set up for this to work.
  # To do this, as root run /usr/bin/makewhatis.
  echo
done  

exit 0

If the [list] in a for loop contains wildcards (* and ?) used in filename expansion, then globbing takes place.

Example 10-4. Operating on files with a for loop

#!/bin/bash
# list-glob.sh: Generating [list] in a for-loop, using "globbing"

echo

for file in *
#           ^  Bash performs filename expansion
#+             on expressions that globbing recognizes.
do
  ls -l "$file"  # Lists all files in $PWD (current directory).
  #  Recall that the wild card character "*" matches every filename,
  #+ however, in "globbing," it doesn't match dot-files.

  #  If the pattern matches no file, it is expanded to itself.
  #  To prevent this, set the nullglob option
  #+   (shopt -s nullglob).
  #  Thanks, S.C.
done

echo; echo

for file in [jx]*
do
  rm -f $file    # Removes only files beginning with "j" or "x" in $PWD.
  echo "Removed file \"$file\"".
done

echo

exit 0

Omitting the in [list] part of a for loop causes the loop to operate on $@ -- the list of arguments given on the command line to the script. A particularly clever illustration of this is Example A-16.

Example 10-5. Missing in [list] in a for loop

#!/bin/bash

#  Invoke this script both with and without arguments,
#+ and see what happens.

for a
do
 echo -n "$a "
done

#  The 'in list' missing, therefore the loop operates on '$@'
#+ (command-line argument list, including whitespace).

echo

exit 0

It is possible to use command substitution to generate the [list] in a for loop. See also Example 12-49, Example 10-10 and Example 12-43.

Example 10-6. Generating the [list] in a for loop with command substitution

#!/bin/bash
#  for-loopcmd.sh: for-loop with [list]
#+ generated by command substitution.

NUMBERS="9 7 3 8 37.53"

for number in `echo $NUMBERS`  # for number in 9 7 3 8 37.53
do
  echo -n "$number "
done

echo 
exit 0

Here is a somewhat more complex example of using command substitution to create the [list].

Example 10-7. A grep replacement for binary files

#!/bin/bash
# bin-grep.sh: Locates matching strings in a binary file.

# A "grep" replacement for binary files.
# Similar effect to "grep -a"

E_BADARGS=65
E_NOFILE=66

if [ $# -ne 2 ]
then
  echo "Usage: `basename $0` search_string filename"
  exit $E_BADARGS
fi

if [ ! -f "$2" ]
then
  echo "File \"$2\" does not exist."
  exit $E_NOFILE
fi  


IFS="\n"         # Per suggestion of Paulo Marcel Coelho Aragao.
for word in $( strings "$2" | grep "$1" )
# The "strings" command lists strings in binary files.
# Output then piped to "grep", which tests for desired string.
do
  echo $word
done

# As S.C. points out, lines 23 - 29 could be replaced with the simpler
#    strings "$2" | grep "$1" | tr -s "$IFS" '[\n*]'


# Try something like  "./bin-grep.sh mem /bin/ls"  to exercise this script.

exit 0

More of the same.

Example 10-8. Listing all users on the system

#!/bin/bash
# userlist.sh

PASSWORD_FILE=/etc/passwd
n=1           # User number

for name in $(awk 'BEGIN{FS=":"}{print $1}' < "$PASSWORD_FILE" )
# Field separator = :    ^^^^^^
# Print first field              ^^^^^^^^
# Get input from password file               ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
do
  echo "USER #$n = $name"
  let "n += 1"
done  


# USER #1 = root
# USER #2 = bin
# USER #3 = daemon
# ...
# USER #30 = bozo

exit 0

#  Exercise:
#  --------
#  How is it that an ordinary user (or a script run by same)
#+ can read /etc/passwd?
#  Isn't this a security hole? Why or why not?

A final example of the [list] resulting from command substitution.

Example 10-9. Checking all the binaries in a directory for authorship

#!/bin/bash
# findstring.sh:
# Find a particular string in binaries in a specified directory.

directory=/usr/bin/
fstring="Free Software Foundation"  # See which files come from the FSF.

for file in $( find $directory -type f -name '*' | sort )
do
  strings -f $file | grep "$fstring" | sed -e "s%$directory%%"
  #  In the "sed" expression,
  #+ it is necessary to substitute for the normal "/" delimiter
  #+ because "/" happens to be one of the characters filtered out.
  #  Failure to do so gives an error message (try it).
done  

exit 0

#  Exercise (easy):
#  ---------------
#  Convert this script to taking command-line parameters
#+ for $directory and $fstring.

The output of a for loop may be piped to a command or commands.

Example 10-10. Listing the symbolic links in a directory

#!/bin/bash
# symlinks.sh: Lists symbolic links in a directory.


directory=${1-`pwd`}
#  Defaults to current working directory,
#+ if not otherwise specified.
#  Equivalent to code block below.
# ----------------------------------------------------------
# ARGS=1                 # Expect one command-line argument.
#
# if [ $# -ne "$ARGS" ]  # If not 1 arg...
# then
#   directory=`pwd`      # current working directory
# else
#   directory=$1
# fi
# ----------------------------------------------------------

echo "symbolic links in directory \"$directory\""

for file in "$( find $directory -type l )"   # -type l = symbolic links
do
  echo "$file"
done | sort                                  # Otherwise file list is unsorted.
#  Strictly speaking, a loop isn't really necessary here,
#+ since the output of the "find" command is expanded into a single word.
#  However, it's easy to understand and illustrative this way.

#  As Dominik 'Aeneas' Schnitzer points out,
#+ failing to quote  $( find $directory -type l )
#+ will choke on filenames with embedded whitespace.
#  Even this will only pick up the first field of each argument.

exit 0


# Jean Helou proposes the following alternative:

echo "symbolic links in directory \"$directory\""
# Backup of the current IFS. One can never be too cautious.
OLDIFS=$IFS
IFS=:

for file in $(find $directory -type l -printf "%p$IFS")
do     #                              ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
       echo "$file"
       done|sort

The stdout of a loop may be redirected to a file, as this slight modification to the previous example shows.

Example 10-11. Symbolic links in a directory, saved to a file

#!/bin/bash
# symlinks.sh: Lists symbolic links in a directory.

OUTFILE=symlinks.list                         # save file

directory=${1-`pwd`}
#  Defaults to current working directory,
#+ if not otherwise specified.


echo "symbolic links in directory \"$directory\"" > "$OUTFILE"
echo "---------------------------" >> "$OUTFILE"

for file in "$( find $directory -type l )"    # -type l = symbolic links
do
  echo "$file"
done | sort >> "$OUTFILE"                     # stdout of loop
#           ^^^^^^^^^^^^^                       redirected to save file.

exit 0

There is an alternative syntax to a for loop that will look very familiar to C programmers. This requires double parentheses.

Example 10-12. A C-like for loop

#!/bin/bash
# Two ways to count up to 10.

echo

# Standard syntax.
for a in 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
do
  echo -n "$a "
done  

echo; echo

# +==========================================+

# Now, let's do the same, using C-like syntax.

LIMIT=10

for ((a=1; a <= LIMIT ; a++))  # Double parentheses, and "LIMIT" with no "$".
do
  echo -n "$a "
done                           # A construct borrowed from 'ksh93'.

echo; echo

# +=========================================================================+

# Let's use the C "comma operator" to increment two variables simultaneously.

for ((a=1, b=1; a <= LIMIT ; a++, b++))  # The comma chains together operations.
do
  echo -n "$a-$b "
done

echo; echo

exit 0

See also Example 26-15, Example 26-16, and Example A-6.

---

Now, a for loop used in a "real-life" context.

Example 10-13. Using efax in batch mode

#!/bin/bash
# Faxing (must have 'fax' installed).

EXPECTED_ARGS=2
E_BADARGS=65

if [ $# -ne $EXPECTED_ARGS ]
# Check for proper no. of command line args.
then
   echo "Usage: `basename $0` phone# text-file"
   exit $E_BADARGS
fi


if [ ! -f "$2" ]
then
  echo "File $2 is not a text file"
  exit $E_BADARGS
fi
  

fax make $2              # Create fax formatted files from text files.

for file in $(ls $2.0*)  # Concatenate the converted files.
                         # Uses wild card in variable list.
do
  fil="$fil $file"
done  

efax -d /dev/ttyS3 -o1 -t "T$1" $fil   # Do the work.


# As S.C. points out, the for-loop can be eliminated with
#    efax -d /dev/ttyS3 -o1 -t "T$1" $2.0*
# but it's not quite as instructive [grin].

exit 0
while

This construct tests for a condition at the top of a loop, and keeps looping as long as that condition is true (returns a 0 exit status). In contrast to a for loop, a while loop finds use in situations where the number of loop repetitions is not known beforehand.

while [condition]
do
�command...
done

As is the case with for loops, placing the do on the same line as the condition test requires a semicolon.

while [condition] ; do

Note that certain specialized while loops, as, for example, a getopts construct, deviate somewhat from the standard template given here.

Example 10-14. Simple while loop

#!/bin/bash

var0=0
LIMIT=10

while [ "$var0" -lt "$LIMIT" ]
do
  echo -n "$var0 "        # -n suppresses newline.
  #             ^           Space, to separate printed out numbers.

  var0=`expr $var0 + 1`   # var0=$(($var0+1))  also works.
                          # var0=$((var0 + 1)) also works.
                          # let "var0 += 1"    also works.
done                      # Various other methods also work.

echo

exit 0

Example 10-15. Another while loop

#!/bin/bash

echo
                               # Equivalent to:
while [ "$var1" != "end" ]     # while test "$var1" != "end"
do
  echo "Input variable #1 (end to exit) "
  read var1                    # Not 'read $var1' (why?).
  echo "variable #1 = $var1"   # Need quotes because of "#" . . .
  # If input is 'end', echoes it here.
  # Does not test for termination condition until top of loop.
  echo
done  

exit 0

A while loop may have multiple conditions. Only the final condition determines when the loop terminates. This necessitates a slightly different loop syntax, however.

Example 10-16. while loop with multiple conditions

#!/bin/bash

var1=unset
previous=$var1

while echo "previous-variable = $previous"
      echo
      previous=$var1
      [ "$var1" != end ] # Keeps track of what $var1 was previously.
      # Four conditions on "while", but only last one controls loop.
      # The *last* exit status is the one that counts.
do
echo "Input variable #1 (end to exit) "
  read var1
  echo "variable #1 = $var1"
done  

# Try to figure out how this all works.
# It's a wee bit tricky.

exit 0

As with a for loop, a while loop may employ C-like syntax by using the double parentheses construct (see also Example 9-30).

Example 10-17. C-like syntax in a while loop

#!/bin/bash
# wh-loopc.sh: Count to 10 in a "while" loop.

LIMIT=10
a=1

while [ "$a" -le $LIMIT ]
do
  echo -n "$a "
  let "a+=1"
done           # No surprises, so far.

echo; echo

# +=================================================================+

# Now, repeat with C-like syntax.

((a = 1))      # a=1
# Double parentheses permit space when setting a variable, as in C.

while (( a <= LIMIT ))   # Double parentheses, and no "$" preceding variables.
do
  echo -n "$a "
  ((a += 1))   # let "a+=1"
  # Yes, indeed.
  # Double parentheses permit incrementing a variable with C-like syntax.
done

echo

# Now, C programmers can feel right at home in Bash.

exit 0

Note

A while loop may have its stdin redirected to a file by a < at its end.

A while loop may have its stdin supplied by a pipe.

until

This construct tests for a condition at the top of a loop, and keeps looping as long as that condition is false (opposite of while loop).

until [condition-is-true]
do
�command...
done

Note that an until loop tests for the terminating condition at the top of the loop, differing from a similar construct in some programming languages.

As is the case with for loops, placing the do on the same line as the condition test requires a semicolon.

until [condition-is-true] ; do

Example 10-18. until loop

#!/bin/bash

END_CONDITION=end

until [ "$var1" = "$END_CONDITION" ]
# Tests condition here, at top of loop.
do
  echo "Input variable #1 "
  echo "($END_CONDITION to exit)"
  read var1
  echo "variable #1 = $var1"
  echo
done  

exit 0

 
 
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