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8.4. Variables

This subsection describes the following:

  • Variable substitution

  • Variable modifiers

  • Predefined shell variables

  • Formatting for the prompt variable

  • Sample .cshrc file

  • Environment variables

8.4.2. Variable Modifiers

Except for $?var, $$, and $?0, the variable substitutions in the preceding section may be followed by one of these modifiers (when braces are used, the modifier goes inside them):


Return the variable's root (the portion before the last dot).


Return the variable's extension.


Return the variable's header (the directory portion).


Return the variable's tail (the portion after the last slash).


Return all roots.


Return all extensions.


Return all headers.


Return all tails.


Quote a wordlist variable, keeping the items separate. Useful when the variable contains filename metacharacters that should not be expanded.


Quote a pattern, expanding it into a wordlist. Examples using quoting modifiers

Unless quoted, the shell expands variables to represent files in the current directory:

% set a="[a-z]*" A="[A-Z]*"
% echo "$a" "$A"
[a-z]* [A-Z]*

% echo $a $A
at cc m4 Book Doc

% echo $a:x $A
[a-z]* Book Doc

% set d=($a:q $A:q)
% echo $d
at cc m4 Book Doc

% echo $d:q
[a-z]* [A-Z]*

% echo $d[1] +++ $d[2]
at cc m4 +++ Book Doc

% echo $d[1]:q

8.4.3. Predefined Shell Variables

Variables can be set in one of two ways, by assigning a value:

set var=value
or by simply turning the variable on:
set var

In the following list, variables that accept values are shown with the equals sign followed by the type of value they accept; the value then is described. (Note, however, that variables such as argv, cwd, or status are never explicitly assigned.) For variables that are turned on or off, the table describes what they do when set. tcsh automatically sets (and, in some cases, updates) the variables addsuffix, argv, autologout, cwd, dirstack, echo-style, edit, gid, home, loginsh, logout, oid, owd, path, prompt, prompt2, prompt3, shell, shlvl, status, tcsh, term, tty, uid, user, and version. Variables in italics are specific to tcsh.

Variable Description

Append / to directories and a space to files during tab completion to indicate a precise match.

ampm Display all times in 12-hour format.

List of arguments passed to current command; default is ().


Check spelling before attempting to complete commands.


Expand history (such as ! references) during command completion.


Print possible completions when correct one is ambiguous. If ambiguous is specified, print possible completions only when completion adds no new characters.

autologout=logout-minutes [locking-minutes]

Log out after logout-minutes of idle time. Lock the terminal after locking-minutes of idle time, requiring a password before continuing. Not used if the DISPLAY environment variable is set.

backslash_quote Always allow backslashes to quote \, ', and <">.

List of alternate directories to search when locating arguments for cd, popd, or pushd.


Turn on color for ls-F, ls, or both. Setting to nothing is equivalent to setting for both.


If set, holds the command passed to the shell with the -c option.


When enhance, ignore case in completion, treat ., -, and _ as word separators, and consider _ and - to be the same.


When cmd, spellcheck commands. When complete, complete commands. When all, spellcheck whole command line.

cwd=dir Full pathname of current directory.

When set, the pushd command extracts the desired directory and puts it at the top of the stack, instead of rotating the stack.


History file consulted by dirs -S and dirs -L. Default is ~/.cshdirs.


Directory stack, in array format. dirstack[0] is always equivalent to cwd. The other elements can be artificially changed.


Enable use of multibyte code; for use with Kanji. See the tcsh manpage for details.


Make sure that each directory exists only once in the stack.


Redisplay each command line before execution; same as csh -x command.


Don't echo a newline with -n option (bsd) | parse escaped characters (sysv) | do both | do neither.

edit Enable command-line editor.

For use with prompt variable. Represent skipped directories with ....


List of filename suffixes to ignore during filename completion (see filec).


If set, a filename that is partially typed on the command line can be expanded to its full name when Esc is pressed. If more than one filename would match, type EOF to list possible completions. Ignored in tcsh.

gid User's group ID.

User's group name.


A two-character string that sets the characters to use in history-substitution and quick- substitution (default is !^).


Maintain a record only of unique history events (all), or do not enter new event when it is the same as the previous one (prev).


History file consulted by history -S and history -L. Default is ~/.history.


Do not expand history lines when recalling them.

history=n format

The first word indicates the number of commands to save in the history list. The second indicates the format with which to display that list (tcsh only; see the prompt section for possible formats).


Home directory of user, initialized from HOME. The ~ character is shorthand for this value.


Ignore an end-of-file (EOF) from terminals; prevents accidental logout.


If directory name is entered as a command, cd to that directory. Can be set to verbose to echo the cd to standard output.


Control editor's mode.

One or more of the x, a, or A options for the ls-F built-in command. Second word can be set to path for ls command.


When a job is suspended, list all jobs (in long format, if specified).


In ls -F command, include type of file to which links point.


Do not allow list-choices to print more than num choices before prompting.


Do not allow list-choices to print more than num rows of choices before prompting.

loginsh Set if shell is a login shell.

Indicates status of an imminent logout (normal, automatic, or hangup).

mail=(n files)

One or more files checked for new mail every 5 minutes or (if n is supplied) every n seconds.


Specifies circumstances under which completion should beep: never, if no match exists, if multiple matches exist, or if multiple matches exist and one is exact.

nobeep Disable beeping.

Don't redirect output to an existing file; prevents accidental destruction of files.


Turn off filename expansion; useful in shell scripts.

nokanji Disable Kanji (if supported).

Treat filename metacharacters as literal characters, if no match exists (e.g., vi ch* creates new file ch* instead of printing "No match").


Do not stat directory-list during completion.
notify Declare job completions when they occur.
owd Old working directory.

List of pathnames in which to search for commands to execute. Initialized from PATH; the default is: . /usr/ucb /usr/bin

printexitvalue Print all nonzero exit values.

String that prompts for interactive input; default is %. See Section 8.4.4, "Formatting for the Prompt Variable" later in this chapter for formatting information.


String that prompts for interactive input in foreach and while loops and continued lines (those with escaped newlines). See Section 8.4.4, "Formatting for the Prompt Variable" for formatting information.


String that prompts for interactive input in automatic spelling correction. See Section 8.4.4, "Formatting for the Prompt Variable" for formatting information.


Use the two characters specified as cc with the %# prompt sequence to indicate normal users and the superuser, respectively.


Do not print directory stack when pushd and popd are invoked.


Change to home directory when pushd is invoked without arguments.


Consider completion to be concluded on first exact match.


When command completion is invoked, print only executable files.

rmstar Prompt before executing the command rm *.

The string to print on the right side of the screen while the prompt is displayed on the left. Specify as for prompt.

savedirs Execute dirs -S before exiting.
savehist=max [merge]

Execute history -S before exiting. Save no more than max lines of history. If specified, merge those lines with previous history saves, and sort by time.


Format for sched's printing of events. See Section 8.4.4, "Formatting for the Prompt Variable" for formatting information.


Pathname of the shell program currently in use; default is /bin/csh.

shlvl Number of nested shells.

Exit status of last command. Built-in commands return 0 (success) or 1 (failure).

symlinks= {chase|ignore|expand}

Specify manner in which to deal with symbolic links. Expand them to real directory name in cwd (chase), treat them as real directories (ignore), or expand arguments that resemble pathnames (expand).

tcsh Version of tcsh.
term Terminal type.
time='n %c'

If command execution takes more than n CPU seconds, report user time, system time, elapsed time, and CPU percentage. Supply optional %c flags to show other data.


Number of minutes between executions of periodic alias.

tty Name of tty, if applicable.
uid User ID.
user Username.

Display a command after history substitution; same as the command csh -v.


Shell's version and additional information, including options set at compile time.


Flash screen instead of beeping.

watch=([n] user terminal...)

Watch for user logging in at terminal, where terminal can be a tty name or any. Check every n minutes or 10 by default.


Specify information to be printed by watch.


List of all nonalphanumeric characters that may be part of a word. Default is *?_-.[]~=.

8.4.6. Environment Variables

The C shell maintains a set of environment variables, which are distinct from shell variables and aren't really part of the C shell. Shell variables are meaningful only within the current shell, but environment variables are exported automatically, making them available globally. For example, C-shell variables are accessible only to a particular script in which they're defined, whereas environment variables can be used by any shell scripts, mail utilities, or editors you might invoke.

Environment variables are assigned as follows:

setenv VAR value

By convention, environment variable names are all uppercase. You can create your own environment variables, or you can use the predefined environment variables that follow.

The following environment variables have corresponding C-shell variables. When either one changes, the value is copied to the other (italics means the variable is specific to tcsh):


User's group name; same as group.


Home directory; same as home.


Search path for commands; same as path.


Number of nested shell levels; same as shlvl.


Terminal type; same as term.


User's login name; same as user.

Other environment variables, which do not have corresponding shell variables, include the following (italics means the variable is specific to tcsh):


Number of columns on terminal.


Identifies user's display for the X Window System. If set, the shell doesn't set autologout.


Pathname to default editor. See also VISUAL.


Name of machine.


Type of machine. Obsolete; will be removed eventually.


Colon-separated list of directories to search for documentation.


Preferred language. Used for native language support.


The locale, as it affects character handling. Used for native language support.


Number of lines on the screen.


Another name for the USER variable.


Type of machine.


The file that holds mail. Used by mail programs. This is not the same as the C-shell mail variable, which only checks for new mail.


Printable characters not rebound. Used for native language support.


Operating system.


The current directory; the value is copied from cwd.


Machine name of remote host.


Undefined by default; once initialized to shell, the two are identical.


The file that holds the cursor-positioning codes for your terminal type. Default is /etc/termcap.


The system vendor.


Pathname to default full-screen editor. See also EDITOR.

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