Advanced bash scripting 2017

Welcome to the web page for the 2017 incarnation of the course "advanced bash scripting". Feel free to take a look at the course abstract or the learning objectives to find out what we have planned. As we go along I will update and extend the teaching material, so feel free to check back later as well.

If you want to participate in the course, I would kindly ask you to register in advance to reserve yourself a spot.

Time and location

The course will take place from the 6th to the 10th November 2017 at Heidelberg University. We will meet in room 3.104 (PC-Pool 2), Mathematikon (INF 205) on the third floor. The course is structured as a full day course running from 9:30am till about 5pm each day with some breaks for lunch and coffee in between.

Please note, that we will need to change into seminar rooms without computers a couple of times during the course and therefore cannot rely only on the computers in the computer pool for the exercises. You are kindly asked to bring your own laptop to the course for that reason.


The bash shell is the default shell in almost all major UNIX and LinuX distributions, which makes learning about the bash scripting language pretty much unavoidable if one is working on a UNIX-like operating system. On the other hand this also implies that writing bash scripts is conceptually very simple — essentially like making structured notes of the commands one would need to type in the shell anyway.

When it comes to more involved tasks and more powerful scripts, however, taking a deeper look at the underlying operating system is typically required. After all bash scripting is all about properly combining the programs available on the UNIX operating system in a clever way as we will see.

In the first part of the course we will hence revisit some basic concepts of UNIX-like operating systems and review the set of UNIX coreutils one typically needs for everyday scripting. Afterwards we will talk about the bash shell and its core language features, including

The final part will be concerned with the extraction of information (from files etc.) using so-called regular expressions and programs like awk, sed or grep.

Learning objectives

After the course you will be able to


Familiarity with a UNIX-like operating system like GNU/Linux and the bash shell is assumed. For example you should be able to

It is not assumed, but highly recommended, that you have some previous experiences with programming or scripting in a UNIX-like operating system.

Laptops for the exercises

Since part of the course will take place in seminar rooms without computers, you will need to bring your own laptops to the course to work on the exercises.

Pretty much any standard Linux or UNIX distribution will have the required software in their repositories. This explicitly includes Debian, Ubuntu, Linux Mint, Arch, Fedora on the Linux side and FreeBSD and MacOS X on the UNIX side. We will install what is needed during the course in case it is not yet on your machine by default anyway.

For Windows computers I recommend using a virtual machine with Linux Mint. Please let me know if you plan to bring along a Windows machine, such that I can prepare some images in advance.

Related courses

This is the second time I teach this course. The notes will be largely based on the old material, which can still be found online.

Last year I taught another course related to UNIX script writing, namely "Introduction to awk programming". It discussed the scripting language awk in depth, which we will only briefly consider here.

Teaching material

Course abstract
Lecture notes
Course files (including notes, resources and example files)
Solutions to the exercises (pdf with comments)
Solution script files

Both the lecture notes as well as the script examples are managed in a public git repository on github. For the most recent version of the material (including corrected errors and other updates) you should refer to this repository or to the DOI 10.5281/zenodo.1038525. Feel free to cite this DOI in case you find the course material useful for your work.

Links and references