Up Next Previous

Filename substitution

If a word contains any of the characters `*', `?', `[' or `{' or begins with the character `~' it is a candidate for filename substitution, also known as ``globbing''. This word is then regarded as a pattern (``glob-pattern''), and replaced with an alphabetically sorted list of file names which match the pattern.

In matching filenames, the character `.' at the beginning of a filename or immediately following a `/', as well as the character `/' must be matched explicitly. The character `*' matches any string of characters, including the null string. The character `?' matches any single character. The sequence `[...]' matches any one of the characters enclosed. Within `[...]', a pair of characters separated by `-' matches any character lexically between the two.

(+) Some glob-patterns can be negated: The sequence `[^...]' matches any single character not specified by the characters and/or ranges of characters in the braces.

An entire glob-pattern can also be negated with `^':

> echo *
bang crash crunch ouch
> echo ^cr*
bang ouch

Glob-patterns which do not use `?', `*', or `[]' or which use `{}' or `~' (below) are not negated correctly.

The metanotation `a{b,c,d}e' is a shorthand for `abe ace ade'. Left-to-right order is preserved: `/usr/source/s1/{oldls,ls}.c' expands to `/usr/source/s1/oldls.c /usr/source/s1/ls.c'. The results of matches are sorted separately at a low level to preserve this order: `../{memo,*box}' might expand to `../memo ../box ../mbox'. (Note that `memo' was not sorted with the results of matching `*box'.) It is not an error when this construct expands to files which do not exist, but it is possible to get an error from a command to which the expanded list is passed. This construct may be nested. As a special case the words `{', `}' and `{}' are passed undisturbed.

The character `~' at the beginning of a filename refers to home directories. Standing alone, i.e. `~', it expands to the invoker's home directory as reflected in the value of the home shell variable. When followed by a name consisting of letters, digits and `-' characters the shell searches for a user with that name and substitutes their home directory; thus `~ken' might expand to `/usr/ken' and `~ken/chmach' to `/usr/ken/chmach'. If the character `~' is followed by a character other than a letter or `/' or appears elsewhere than at the beginning of a word, it is left undisturbed. A command like `setenv MANPATH /usr/man:/usr/local/man:~/lib/man' does not, therefore, do home directory substitution as one might hope.

It is an error for a glob-pattern containing `*', `?', `[' or `~', with or without `^', not to match any files. However, only one pattern in a list of glob-patterns must match a file (so that, e.g., `rm *.a *.c *.o' would fail only if there were no files in the current directory ending in `.a', `.c', or `.o'), and if the nonomatch shell variable is set a pattern (or list of patterns) which matches nothing is left unchanged rather than causing an error.

The noglob shell variable can be set to prevent filename substitution, and the expand-glob editor command, normally bound to `^X-*', can be used to interactively expand individual filename substitutions.

Up Next Previous