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A Bash alias is essentially nothing
more than a keyboard shortcut, an abbreviation, a means of
avoiding typing a long command sequence. If, for example,
we include alias lm="ls -l | more" in
file, then each
typed at the command-line will automatically be replaced by a
ls -l | more. This can save a great deal of
typing at the command-line and avoid having to remember complex
combinations of commands and options. Setting alias
rm="rm -i" (interactive mode delete) may save a
good deal of grief, since it can prevent inadvertently deleting
In a script, aliases have very limited usefulness. It would be nice if aliases could assume some of the functionality of the C preprocessor, such as macro expansion, but unfortunately Bash does not expand arguments within the alias body.  Moreover, a script fails to expand an alias itself within "compound constructs," such as if/then statements, loops, and functions. An added limitation is that an alias will not expand recursively. Almost invariably, whatever we would like an alias to do could be accomplished much more effectively with a function.
Example 25-1. Aliases within a script
#!/bin/bash # alias.sh shopt -s expand_aliases # Must set this option, else script will not expand aliases. # First, some fun. alias Jesse_James='echo "\"Alias Jesse James\" was a 1959 comedy starring Bob Hope."' Jesse_James echo; echo; echo; alias ll="ls -l" # May use either single (') or double (") quotes to define an alias. echo "Trying aliased \"ll\":" ll /usr/X11R6/bin/mk* #* Alias works. echo directory=/usr/X11R6/bin/ prefix=mk* # See if wild card causes problems. echo "Variables \"directory\" + \"prefix\" = $directory$prefix" echo alias lll="ls -l $directory$prefix" echo "Trying aliased \"lll\":" lll # Long listing of all files in /usr/X11R6/bin stating with mk. # An alias can handle concatenated variables -- including wild card -- o.k. TRUE=1 echo if [ TRUE ] then alias rr="ls -l" echo "Trying aliased \"rr\" within if/then statement:" rr /usr/X11R6/bin/mk* #* Error message results! # Aliases not expanded within compound statements. echo "However, previously expanded alias still recognized:" ll /usr/X11R6/bin/mk* fi echo count=0 while [ $count -lt 3 ] do alias rrr="ls -l" echo "Trying aliased \"rrr\" within \"while\" loop:" rrr /usr/X11R6/bin/mk* #* Alias will not expand here either. # alias.sh: line 57: rrr: command not found let count+=1 done echo; echo alias xyz='cat $0' # Script lists itself. # Note strong quotes. xyz # This seems to work, #+ although the Bash documentation suggests that it shouldn't. # # However, as Steve Jacobson points out, #+ the "$0" parameter expands immediately upon declaration of the alias. exit 0
The unalias command removes a previously set alias.
Example 25-2. unalias: Setting and unsetting an alias
#!/bin/bash # unalias.sh shopt -s expand_aliases # Enables alias expansion. alias llm='ls -al | more' llm echo unalias llm # Unset alias. llm # Error message results, since 'llm' no longer recognized. exit 0
... as the first word of a command string. Obviously, an alias is only meaningful at the beginning of a command.
However, aliases do seem to expand positional parameters.