Chapter 2. Command-Line Editing

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It's always possible to make mistakes when you type at a computer keyboard, but perhaps even more so when you are using a UNIX shell. UNIX shell syntax is powerful, yet terse, full of odd characters, and not particularly mnemonic, making it possible to construct command lines that are as cryptic as they are complex. The Bourne and C shells exacerbate this situation by giving you extremely limited ways of editing your command lines.

In particular, there is no way to recall a previous command line so that you can fix a mistake. If you are an experienced Bourne shell user, undoubtedly you know the frustration of having to retype long command lines. You can use the BACKSPACE key to edit, but once you hit RETURN, it's gone forever!

The C shell provided a small improvement via its history mechanism, which provides a few very awkward ways of editing previous commands. But there are more than a few people who have wondered, "Why can't I edit my UNIX command lines in the same way I can edit text with an editor?"

This is exactly what bash allows you to do. It has editing modes that allow you to edit command lines with editing commands similar to those of the two most popular UNIX editors, vi and emacs. It also provides a much-extended analog to the C shell history mechanism called fc (for fix command) that, among other things, allows you to use your favorite editor directly for editing your command lines. To round things out, bash also provides the original C shell history mechanism.

In this chapter, we will discuss the features that are common to all of bash's command-history facilities; after that, we will deal with each facility in detail. If you use either vi or emacs, you may wish to read the section on the emulation mode for only the one you use.[1] If you use neither vi or emacs, but are interested in learning one of the editing modes anyway, we suggest emacs-mode, because it is more of a natural extension of the minimal editing capability you get with the bare shell.

[1] You will get the most out of these sections if you are already familiar with the editor(s) in question. Good sources for more complete information on the editors are the O'Reilly books Learning the vi Editor, by Linda Lamb and Arnold Robbins, and Learning GNU Emacs, by Debra Cameron, James Elliott, and Marc Loy.

We should mention up front that both emacs- and vi-modes introduce the potential for clashes with control keys set up by the UNIX terminal interface. Recall the control keys shown in Chapter 1 in Table 1-7, and the sample stty command output. The control keys shown there override their functions in the editing modes.

During the rest of this chapter, we'll warn you when an editing command clashes with the default setting of a terminal-interface control key.

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    Learning the bash Shell
    Learning the bash Shell: Unix Shell Programming (In a Nutshell (OReilly))
    ISBN: 0596009658
    EAN: 2147483647
    Year: 2005
    Pages: 139

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