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man pages section 1: User Commands

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Updated: Thursday, June 13, 2019
 
 

test(1)

Name

test - evaluate condition(s)

Synopsis

/usr/bin/test [condition]
[ [condition] ]

sh

test [condition]
[ [condition] ]

csh

test [condition]
[ [condition] ]

ksh88

test [condition]
[ [condition] ]

ksh

test [condition]
[ [condition] ]

Description

The test utility evaluates the condition and indicates the result of the evaluation by its exit status. An exit status of zero indicates that the condition evaluated as true and an exit status of 1 indicates that the condition evaluated as false.

In the first form of the utility shown using the SYNOPSIS:

test [condition]

the square brackets denote that condition is an optional operand and are not to be entered on the command line.

In the second form of the utility shown using the SYNOPSIS:

[ [ condition ] ]

the first open square bracket, [, is the required utility name. condition is optional, as denoted by the inner pair of square brackets. The final close square bracket, ], is a required operand.

The test and [ utilities evaluate the condition condition and, if its value is true, set exit status to 0. Otherwise, a non-zero (false) exit status is set. test and [ also set a non-zero exit status if there are no arguments. When permissions are tested, the effective user ID of the process is used.

All operators, flags, and brackets (brackets used as shown in the last SYNOPSIS line) must be separate arguments to these commands. Normally these arguments are separated by spaces.

Operands

The primaries listed below with two elements of the form:

-primary_operator primary_operand

are known as unary primaries. The primaries with three elements in either of the two forms:

primary_operand -primary_operator primary_operand
primary_operand primary_operator primary_operand

are known as binary primaries.

If any file operands except for –h and –L primaries refer to symbolic links, the symbolic link is expanded and the test is performed on the resulting file.

If you test a file you own (the –r –w or –x tests), but the permission tested does not have the owner bit set, a non-zero (false) exit status is returned even though the file can have the group or other bit set for that permission.

The = and != primaries have a higher precedence than the unary primaries. The = and != primaries always expect arguments; therefore, = and != cannot be used as an argument to the unary primaries.

The following primaries can be used to construct condition:

–a file

True if file exists. (Not available in sh.)

–b file

True if file exists and is a block special file.

–c file

True if file exists and is a character special file.

–d file

True if file exists and is a directory.

–e file

True if file exists. (Not available in sh.)

–f file

True if file exists and is a regular file. Alternatively, if /usr/bin/sh users specify /usr/ucb before /usr/bin in their PATH environment variable, then test returns true if file exists and is (not−a−directory). The csh test and [ built-ins always use this alternative behavior.

–g file

True if file exists and its set group ID flag is set.

–G file

True if file exists and its group matches the effective group ID of this process. (Not available in sh.)

–h file

True if file exists and is a symbolic link.

–k file

True if file exists and has its sticky bit set.

–L file

True if file exists and is a symbolic link.

–n string

True if the length of string is non-zero.

–o option

True if option named option is on. This option is not available in csh or sh.

–O file

True if file exists and is owned by the effective user ID of this process. This option is not available in sh.

–p file

True if file is a named pipe (FIFO).

–r file

True if file exists and is readable.

–s file

True if file exists and has a size greater than zero.

–S file

True if file exists and is a socket. This option is not available in sh.

–t [file_descriptor]

True if the file whose file descriptor number is file_descriptor is open and is associated with a terminal. If file_descriptor is not specified, 1 is used as a default value.

–u file

True if file exists and its set-user-ID flag is set.

–w file

True if file exists and is writable. True indicates only that the write flag is on. The file is not writable on a read-only file system even if this test indicates true.

–x file

True if file exists and is executable. True indicates only that the execute flag is on. If file is a directory, true indicates that file can be searched.

–z string

True if the length of string string is zero.

file1 –nt file2

True if file1 exists and is newer than file2. This option is not available in sh.

file1 –ot file2

True if file1 exists and is older than file2. This option is not available in sh.

file1 –ef file2

True if file1 and file2 exist and refer to the same file. This option is not available in sh.

string

True if the string string is not the null string.

string1 = string2

True if the strings string1 and string2 are identical.

string1 != string2

True if the strings string1 and string2 are not identical.

n1 –eq n2

True if the numbers n1 and n2 are algebraically equal. A number may be integer, floating point or floating-point constant (such as [+/-]Inf, [+/-]NaN) in any format specified by C99/XPG6/SUS.

n1 –ne n2

True if the numbers n1 and n2 are not algebraically equal. A number may be integer, floating point or floating-point constant (such as [+/-]Inf, [+/-]NaN) in any format specified by C99/XPG6/SUS.

n1 –gt n2

True if the number n1 is algebraically greater than the number n2. A number may be integer, floating point or floating-point constant (such as [+/-]Inf, [+/-]NaN) in any format specified by C99/XPG6/SUS.

n1 –ge n2

True if the number n1 is algebraically greater than or equal to the number n2. A number may be integer, floating point or floating-point constant (such as [+/-]Inf, [+/-]NaN) in any format specified by C99/XPG6/SUS.

n1 –lt n2

True if the number n1 is algebraically less than the number n2. A number may be integer, floating point or floating-point constant (such as [+/-]Inf, [+/-]NaN) in any format specified by C99/XPG6/SUS.

n1 –le n2

True if the number n1 is algebraically less than or equal to the number n2. A number may be integer, floating point or floating-point constant (such as [+/-]Inf, [+/-]NaN) in any format specified by C99/XPG6/SUS.

condition1 –a condition2

True if both condition1 and condition2 are true. The –a binary primary is left associative and has higher precedence than the –o binary primary.

condition1 –o condition2

True if either condition1 or condition2 is true. The –o binary primary is left associative.

These primaries can be combined with the following operators:

! condition

True if condition is false.

( condition )

True if condition is true. The parentheses ( ) can be used to alter the normal precedence and associativity. The parentheses are meaningful to the shell and, therefore, must be quoted.

The algorithm for determining the precedence of the operators and the return value that is generated is based on the number of arguments presented to test. (However, when using the [...] form, the right-bracket final argument is not counted in this algorithm.)

In the following list, $1, $2, $3 and $4 represent the arguments presented to test as a condition, condition1, or condition2.

0 arguments:

Exit false (1).

1 argument:

Exit true (0) if $1 is not null. Otherwise, exit false.

2 arguments:
  • If $1 is !, exit true if $2 is null, false if $2 is not null.

  • If $1 is a unary primary, exit true if the unary test is true, false if the unary test is false.

  • Otherwise, produce unspecified results.

3 arguments:
  • If $2 is a binary primary, perform the binary test of $1 and $3.

  • If $1 is !, negate the two-argument test of $2 and $3.

  • Otherwise, produce unspecified results.

4 arguments:
  • If $1 is !, negate the three-argument test of $2, $3, and $4.

  • Otherwise, the results are unspecified.

Usage

Scripts should be careful when dealing with user-supplied input that could be confused with primaries and operators. Unless the application writer knows all the cases that produce input to the script, invocations like test "$1" -a "$2" should be written as test "$1" && test "$2" to avoid problems if a user supplied values such as $1 set to ! and $2 set to the null string. That is, in cases where maximal portability is of concern, replace test expr1 -a expr2 with test expr1 && test expr2, and replace test expr1 -o expr2 with test expr1 || test expr2. But notice that, in test, –a has higher precedence than –o, while && and || have equal precedence in the shell.

Parentheses or braces can be used in the shell command language to effect grouping.

Parentheses must be escaped when using sh. For example:

test \( expr1 -a expr2 \) -o expr3

This command is not always portable outside XSI-conformant systems. The following form can be used instead:

( test expr1 && test expr2 ) || test expr3

The two commands:

test "$1"
test ! "$1"

could not be used reliably on some historical systems. Unexpected results would occur if such a string condition were used and $1 expanded to !, (, or a known unary primary. Better constructs are, respectively,

test -n "$1"
test -z "$1"

Historical systems have also been unreliable given the common construct:

test "$response" = "expected string"

One of the following is a more reliable form:

test "X$response" = "Xexpected string"
test "expected string" = "$response"

The second form assumes that expected string could not be confused with any unary primary. If expected string starts with , (, ! or even =, the first form should be used instead. Using the preceding rules without the marked extensions, any of the three comparison forms is reliable, given any input. (However, observe that the strings are quoted in all cases.)

Because the string comparison binary primaries, = and !=, have a higher precedence than any unary primary in the >4 argument case, unexpected results can occur if arguments are not properly prepared. For example, in

test -d $1 -o -d $2

If $1 evaluates to a possible directory name of =, the first three arguments are considered a string comparison, which causes a syntax error when the second –d is encountered. is encountered. One of the following forms prevents this; the second is preferred:

test \( -d "$1" \) -o \( -d "$2" \)
test -d "$1" || test -d "$2"

Also in the >4 argument case:

test "$1" = "bat" -a "$2" = "ball"

Syntax errors occur if $1 evaluates to ( or !. One of the following forms prevents this; the third is preferred:

test "X$1" = "Xbat" -a "X$2" = "Xball"
test "$1" = "bat" && test "$2" = "ball"
test "X$1" = "Xbat" && test "X$2" = "Xball"

Examples

In the if command examples, three conditions are tested, and if all three evaluate as true or successful, then their validities are written to the screen. The three tests are:

  • if a variable set to 1 is greater than 0,

  • if a variable set to 2 is equal to 2, and

  • if the word root is included in the text file /etc/passwd.

/usr/bin/test

Example 1 Using /usr/bin/test

Perform a mkdir if a directory does not exist:

test ! -d tempdir && mkdir tempdir

Wait for a file to become non-readable:

while test -r thefile
do
   sleep 30
done
echo'"thefile" is no longer readable'

Perform a command if the argument is one of three strings (two variations), using the open bracket version [ of the test command:

if [ "$1" = "pear" ] || [ "$1" = "grape" ] || [ "$1" = "apple" ]
then
    command
fi
case "$1" in
    pear|grape|apple) command;;
esac
Example 2 Using /usr/bin/test for the -e option

If one really wants to use the –e option in sh, use /usr/bin/test, as in the following:

if [ ! -h $PKG_INSTALL_ROOT$rLink ] && /usr/bin/test -e
$PKG_INSTALL_ROOT/usr/bin/$rFile ; then
    ln -s $rFile $PKG_INSTALL_ROOT$rLink
fi

The test built-in

The two forms of the test built-in follow the Bourne shell's if example.

Example 3 Using the sh built-in
ZERO=0 ONE=1 TWO=2 ROOT=root

if  [ $ONE –gt $ZERO ]

[ $TWO –eq 2 ]

grep $ROOT  /etc/passwd >&1 > /dev/null  # discard output

then

    echo "$ONE is greater than 0, $TWO equals 2, and $ROOT is" \
          "a user-name in the password file"

else

    echo "At least one of the three test conditions is false"        
fi
Example 4 Using the test built-in

Examples of the test built-in:

test `grep $ROOT /etc/passwd >&1 /dev/null`   # discard output 

echo $?    # test for success
[ `grep nosuchname /etc/passwd >&1 /dev/null` ]

echo $?    # test for failure

csh

Example 5 Using the csh built-in
@ ZERO = 0; @ ONE = 1; @ TWO = 2;  set ROOT = root
grep $ROOT  /etc/passwd >&1 /dev/null  # discard output         
    # $status must be tested for immediately following grep 
if ( "$status" == "0" && $ONE > $ZERO && $TWO == 2 ) then
       echo "$ONE is greater than 0, $TWO equals 2, and $ROOT is" \
             "a user-name in the password file"
 endif

ksh88

Example 6 Using the ksh88/ksh built-in
ZERO=0 ONE=1 TWO=$((ONE+ONE)) ROOT=root         
if  ((ONE > ZERO))            #  arithmetical comparison
 [[ $TWO = 2 ]]                #  string comparison
 [ `grep $ROOT  /etc/passwd >&1 /dev/null` ] # discard output        
then 
     echo "$ONE is greater than 0, $TWO equals 2, and $ROOT is" \
             "a user-name in the password file"

else
     echo "At least one of the three test conditions is false"
fi

Environment Variables

See environ(7) for descriptions of the following environment variables that affect the execution of test: LANG, LC_ALL , LC_CTYPE, LC_MESSAGES, and NLSPATH.

Exit Status

The following exit values are returned:

0

condition evaluated to true.

1

condition evaluated to false or condition was missing.

>1

An error occurred.

Attributes

See attributes(7) for descriptions of the following attributes:

/usr/bin/test, csh, ksh88, sh

ATTRIBUTE TYPE
ATTRIBUTE VALUE
Availability
system/core-os
Interface Stability
Committed
Standard

ksh

ATTRIBUTE TYPE
ATTRIBUTE VALUE
Availability
system/core-os
Interface Stability
Uncommitted

See Also

csh(1), ksh(1), ksh88(1), sh(1), attributes(7), environ(7), standards(7)

Notes

The not−a−directory alternative to the –f option is a transition aid for BSD applications and may not be supported in future releases.

XPG4 sh, ksh88, ksh

Use arithmetic expressions such as

$(( x > 3.1 )) #

instead of

$ /usr/bin/test "$x" -gt 3.1 # )

when comparing two floating-point variables or a constant and a floating-point variable to prevent rounding errors (caused by the base16 to base10 transformation) to affect the result. Additionally the built-in arithmetic support in XPG4 sh, ksh88 and ksh is significantly faster because it does not require the explicit transformation to strings for each comparison.