Bash bangs usage

Published on 15-10-2009 in [ bash, astuce, commandline ]

In Bash, one may use !!, !* and !:2 to get quicker access to previously typed commands or part of commands. “!!” stands for the last command, “!*” for the last command without the first term and !:2 is the third argument of the previous command. Let’s have some examples:

raph@machine$ ls books/
foo.txt bar.txt

raph@machine$ !!
ls books/ ## you notice that Bash outputs immediately the expanded command ## 
foo.txt bar.txt

raph@machine$ ls books/foo.txt foo.txt 

raph@machine$ head !*
head books/foo.txt foo.txt
# first lines of foo.txt here # 

raph@machine$ wc -l !*
wc -l foo.txt
# number of lines in foo.txt # 

raph@machine$ file !:2
file foo.txt
# output of command file #

As one may see, !:2 is useful when some options have been given between the command and the filename. If I had used “file !*” instead of “file !:2”, bash would have tried to execute command file on “-l” and “foo.txt”. The “-l, file not found” error message would then occur.

I admit that !:2 – or, more generally, !:n – is a bit complicated if n greater than 2, because one would not want to manually count the number of options … But it works like a charm in the sequence above with “wc -l” and “head”.

The !! is very useful when you are the administrator of your computer and you forget to use sudo at the beginning of a command. Just type “sudo !!” after the “permission denied” message and you’re done … (indeed, CTRL+A may also help you).