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29.2. Introduction to Shell Aliases

All shells except the original Bourne shell have an "alias" facility that lets you define abbreviations for commands.

The simplest C shell aliases, which are similar to the alias facility in newer Bourne-type shells, are simply a short name for a command and, often, command options or arguments too. The C shell's aliases can get very complicated. Section 29.3 describes how a C shell alias can use arguments from its command line as it's invoked.

As we've said, aliases in Bourne-type shells (bash, zsh, and ksh) are simpler. Section 29.4 covers some of the differences between those shells and the C shells. Still, the ideas for custom C shell commands are useful in any kind of shell, and if you can't write something in a simple Bourne-type alias, you almost certainly can do it in a shell function (Section 29.11).

You can define aliases from the command line, for use in just your current shell. Any aliases you define can also be placed in your shell setup file (Section 3.3), so they'll be available whenever you're using your shell.

Note that aliases are not passed to subprocesses (Section 3.3), so putting them in a setup file that's read only by login shells or top-level shells probably isn't what you want. (One exception is an alias for a command that you want to run only in a login shell. For instance, you could define an alias named X that starts your X Window System. If that alias isn't defined in subshells, you'll get a message like X: command not found if you try to start the window system from an existing window.)

A common approach is to create separate files for each shell that store your aliases (such as .bash_aliases for bash or .aliases.csh for the C shell), so that you may source them whenever you like.

Here's one last note that applies to all shells. Anytime you want a list of the aliases currently set, just type alias.

--JP, ML, DG, and SJC

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