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Previous: 21.2 A Better Place for Temporary Files: /tmp Chapter 21
More About Managing Files
Next: 21.4 Why Both /tmp and /usr/tmp?

21.3 Unique Names for Temporary Files

All users share /tmp (21.2 ) , so you should make unique filenames there. The best way to do this is by putting $$ in the filename. For example:

% vi /tmp/jerry.$$

"/tmp/jerry.12345" [New file]
% lpr /tmp/jerry.$$

% rm /tmp/jerry.$$

The shell replaces $$ with the shell's PID number (38.3 ) (in this case, 12345 ).

If you use a subshell (38.4 ) , or have more than one login session or window, and want to share the same temp file, $$ won't work for you. In that case, just pick a unique name. You could use today's date instead.

To give yourself both options with a minimum of work, here are lines for your shell setup files (2.2 ) . The left column has lines for csh -like shells, and the right is for sh -like shells.


set tf=/tmp/jp$$	tf=/tmp/jp$$

		export TF
set date = (`date`)	set `date`
setenv TF /tmp/jp$date[4]	TF=/tmp/jp$4

(The last two lines grab the fourth word - the current time - from the output of the date (51.10 ) command.) When I want a temporary file in my current shell, I type:

% grep foo bar > $tf-1

% grep wheeze bar > $tf-2

% more $tf-*

The shell expands the shell variable (6.8 ) $tf-1 into a filename like /tmp/jp2345-1 , and $tf-* expands into all my temporary files in this shell. Usually, that's great. But if I go to a subshell, do a shell escape, and so on, the temporary files I make with $tf won't be the same as the ones I make in my login shell because the PIDs are different. If I need them to be the same, I use $TF , the environment variable (6.1 ) . It's set to the time I logged in. And because environment variables are passed to child shells, the name (like /tmp/jp09:34:56 ) will be the same in subshells:

% someprog > $TF-1

% otherprog > $TF-6

% sh

$ head $TF-[16]

If I'll be using a file for more than a minute or two, I might forget what's in which file. So I leave myself a note in shell variables named xf n and environment variables named XF n -where "xf" means "explain file" and n is 1 , 2 , etc. to correspond to the variable. If I don't remember which have what, I get a list by piping the output of set (for shell variables) or printenv or env (6.1 ) (for environment variables) through grep . For example:

% sort -t: +2 $tf-2 > $tf-3

% set xf3='sorted list of chapter 21 files'


% set | grep xf

xf1     sorted list of chapter 20 files
xf3     sorted list of chapter 21 files
% lpr $tf-3

To clean up when I log out, I added the lines that follow to the C shell .logout file. The Bourne shell version is similar, but it needs a couple of tricks to work on some shells; it's on the CD-ROM.


set nonomatch
set tmpf="\`ls -d $tf-* $TF-* |& grep -v ' not found'\`"
if ( "$tmpf" =~ ?* ) then
    echo; echo "Your files in /tmp:"
    ls -d $tmpf
    echo -n "'rm -rf' them? [ny](n) "
    if ( "$<" =~ y* ) rm -rf $tmpf

If I made any temporary files from my login shell or any subshells, I get this message when I log out:

% logout

Your files in /tmp:
/tmp/jp2345-1   /tmp/jp2345-2  /tmp/jp2748-1  /tmp/09:23:45-1
'rm -rf' them? y

Another way to do this is with a script like del (23.6 ) .

- JP

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