In Praise of Small Shell Scripts

code bash .....

Later: Making A Tiny E-Paper Status Display for the Raspberry Pi Zero
Earlier: 2024 Blogging Intentions

Over the decades I've relied heavily on bash aliases and functions to automate common tasks, resulting in a .bash_profile that's over a thousand lines long. But lately I find myself writing many small scripts instead.

These tiny scripts, which live in a directory on my $PATH, have several advantages:

Even something as trivial as an alias might get its own shell script, if I can give it a name that's easier to remember than the original program name or combination of arguments. Bash is an awkward language for doing complex things, but expressive enough for simple tasks. And ChatGPT or other AI tools can often write simple scripts correctly for you with little or no modification.

Here are some examples of small scripts I've been using recently:

This last one is simple and helpful enough to show here:



cat << EOF > ~/bin/$script_name

echo "OK"

chmod +x ~/bin/$script_name

Bash is boring and old (I still have csh scripts from more than 30 years ago; csh is a close cousin of bash). It's also everywhere – on my Mac, inside my Docker containers, on my Raspberry Pi's, on my client's servers, and on the cloud VMs I work on.

The "many small scripts" approach is complementary to how I use make, which I wrote about previously.

Finally, here's the small script I wrote yesterday to hopefully get me writing more often:




echo -n "Title for post: "; read title
postdate=$(date '+%Y-%m-%d')
echo $title $postdate

# Turn the title lower case/kebab case, remove extra characters.  Thanks, ChatGPT!
title_kebab=$(echo "$title" |
              tr '[:upper:]' '[:lower:]' |
              tr -s '[:space:]' '-' |
              sed 's/[^a-z0-9-]//g; s/^-//; s/-$//')

echo -n "$title" | pbcopy


if [ ! -e $file ]; then
    cat <<EOF > $file
title: $title
date: $postdate
draft: true
# Org Mode stuff in case I export the document on its own without using Hugo:
#+OPTIONS: toc:nil num:nil



ae $file  # `ae` is another small script: loads the resulting file in Emacs.

Typing "newpost" asks me for a title and pops me in my editor with all the boilerplate needed to get me on my way. Nice and easy.

Later: Making A Tiny E-Paper Status Display for the Raspberry Pi Zero
Earlier: 2024 Blogging Intentions