Multi line alias in bash

Jovin Miranda 09/02/2018. 2 answers, 974 views
command-line bash scripts alias

I have the following script. It's a simple test case where a is any string value and b is supposed to be a path.


alias jo "\
echo "please enter values "\
read a \
read -e b \
echo "My values are $a and $b""

However whenever I try to execute ./ I get the following errors:

./ line 3: alias: jo: not found
./ line 3: alias: echo please: not found
./ line 3: alias: enter: not found
./ line 3: alias: values: not found
./ line 3: alias: read a read -e b echo My: not found
./ line 3: alias: values: not found
./ line 3: alias: are: not found
./ line 3: alias: and: not found
./ line 3: alias: : not found

and when I try source I get the following:

a: Undefined variable.

My aim was to make this an alias so that I can source this script and just run the alias to execute the line of commands. Can someone look at this and let me know what the error is?

2 Answers

steeldriver 09/02/2018.

You have a couple of issues here

  1. unlike in csh, in bash (and other Bourne-like shells), aliases are assigned with an = sign e.g. alias foo=bar

  2. quotes can't be nested like that; in this case, you can use single quotes around the alias and double quotes inside

  3. the backslash \ is a line continuation character: syntactically, it makes your command into a single line (the opposite of what you want)



alias jo='
echo "please enter values "
read a 
read -e b 
echo "My values are $a and $b"'

Testing: first we source the file:

$ . ./


$ jo
please enter values 
foo bar
My values are foo bar and baz

If you want to use the alias within a script, then remember that aliases are only enabled by default in interactive shells: to enable them inside a script you will need to add

shopt -s expand_aliases

Regardless of everything above, you should consider using a shell function rather than an alias for things like this

glenn jackman 09/02/2018.

Get used to using functions in the POSIX-type shell. You don't have any of the quoting issues:

jo () {
    read -p "Enter value for 'a': " -e a 
    read -p "Enter value for 'b': " -e b 
    echo "My values are $a and $b"
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