Mark Needham

Thoughts on Software Development

Bash: Reusing previous commands

with 2 comments

A lot of the time when I’m using the bash shell I want to re-use commands that I’ve previously entered and I’ve recently learnt some neat ways to do this from my colleagues Tom and Kief.

If we want to list the history of all the commands we’ve entered in a shell session then the following command does the trick:

> history
...
  761  sudo port search pdfinfo
  762  to_ipad andersen-phd-thesis.pdf 
  763  vi ~/.bash_profile
  764  source ~/.bash_profile
  765  to_ipad andersen-phd-thesis.pdf 
  766  to_ipad spotify-p2p10.pdf 
  767  mkdir LinearAlgebra

If we want to execute any of those commands again then we can do that by entering ![numberOfCommand. For example, to execute the last command on that list we’d do this:

> !767
mkdir LinearAlgebra
mkdir: LinearAlgebra: File exists

We can also search the history and execute the last command that matches the search by doing the following:

> !mk
mkdir LinearAlgebra
mkdir: LinearAlgebra: File exists

A safer way to do this would be to suffix that with :p so the command gets printed to stdout rather than executed:

> !mk:p
mkdir LinearAlgebra

A fairly common use case that I’ve come across is to search for a file and then once you’ve found it open it in a text editor.

We can do this by using the !! command which repeats the previously executed command:

> find . -iname "someFile.txt"
> vi `!!`

We can achieve the same thing by wrapping ‘!!’ inside ‘$()’ as well:

> find . -iname "someFile.txt"
> vi $(!!)

Sam Rowe has a cool post where he goes into this stuff in even more detail.

I’m sure there are more tricks that I haven’t learnt yet so please let me know if you know some!

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Written by Mark Needham

October 13th, 2011 at 7:46 pm

Posted in Shell Scripting

Tagged with ,

  • Ctrl+R is an invaluable short-cut when working in bash: it provides a reverse incremental search over your entire bash history.

  • Rogier van Eeten

    make sandwich
    – what? make it yourself
    sudo !!
    – Okay