Each process in Unix has its own set of environment variables. They're called environment variables because the default set of such variables consists mostly of session-wide variables used for configuration purposes.
From the point of a Unix shell though, environment variables can be accessed the same way as any other variable.
Common environment variables in Unix
Most well known environment variables are the following:
- USER – username of a Unix user
- HOME – full path to a user's home directory
- TERM – terminal or terminal emulator used by a current user
- PATH – list of directories searched for executable files when you type a command in Unix shell
- PWD – current directory
Example of using environment variables
Using Unix username to control the flow of a script
Sometimes it's quite useful to double-check the username of whoever called your script – maybe you'll want to provide different functionality for different users. A common use of such scenario is many commands which are not meant to be run by anyone except superuser (root). If you try running them as a normal user, you'll be told right away that you have to be root in order to use them.
In Unix scripts, the opposite functionality is more useful: making sure you don't run a script as root. Here's one way of doing it:
#!/bin/bash # echo "- Verifying the current user..." if [ "$USER" = "root" ]; then echo "You are ROOT, please run as a normal user"; exit else echo "User $USER, script is ready to continue" fi echo "Work in progress..."
And that's how it would work:
ubuntu$ /tmp/script.sh - Verifying the current user... User greys, script is ready to continue Work in progress...
If I use sudo in Ubuntu to run the script as root, I'll get a warning and the script will end:
$ sudo /tmp/script.sh - Verifying the current user... You are ROOT, please run as a normal user
Getting full list of environment variables
In case you feel like exploring, you can use the env command to get a full list of currently set environment variables (the output in this example is abridged):
ubuntu$ env TERM=xterm SHELL=/bin/bash USER=greys MAIL=/var/mail/greys PATH=/usr/local/sbin:/usr/local/bin:/usr/sbin:/usr/bin:/sbin:/bin:/usr/bin/X11:/usr/games PWD=/home/greys EDITOR=vim ..
That's all I wanted to share with you today. Let me know how exactly you'd like me to further expand and cover this topic – more posts will definitely follow!
- Using variables in Unix
- Environment variables – article @ Wikipedia
- Unix scripting example: time and date