Making your scripts interactive

Tutorials – Shell Scripts

Article from Issue 225/2019
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Letting your scripts ask complex questions and give user feedback makes them more effective.

The final installment in my shell script tutorial series focuses on conversations between Bash scripts and their human users who interact with them during script execution. Part of what you will learn here can be applied to conversations between shell scripts and other programs, but this is a different problem, which is often best solved with other tools, such as Expect [1].

As with every other programming feature, the most important questions are not "what" or "how," but "when" and "why" a script would need conversations. For the purpose of this tutorial, I will distinguish three broad cases, some of which may overlap in several ways.

In the first case, there are certain scripts that should not hold conversations at all (reporting outcomes and errors in logfiles is a different issue, of course). Obvious examples are scripts that should run as cron jobs or that must do exactly the same thing every time they run.

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