Bash Function: A Fully Detailed Linux Tutorial

bash scripting - linux bash function guide

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bash scripting - linux bash function guide
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Let’s talk about the beauty of Bash functions in the realm of shell scripting. They’re like trusty companions that empower you to create reusable blocks of code that can be summoned at multiple points in your script or even in other scripts. Imagine the convenience! With Bash functions, you can simplify your scripts, making them easier to understand and reducing the dreaded code duplication. It doesn’t matter if you’re a novice or a seasoned shell scripter; mastering the art of creating and utilizing Bash functions is an absolute game-changer in your journey as a developer. So, buckle up and embrace the power of Bash functions as you elevate your scripting skills to new heights!

What is Bash Scripting?

Bash scripting is a method of task automation utilizing the Bash shell, which serves as the default command-line interface for numerous Unix-based operating systems such as macOS and Linux. A Bash script is a program coded in the Bash scripting language, which can be executed in a terminal or as a stand-alone script file.

Bash scripting allows you to accomplish various tasks, from executing simple commands to performing complex automation and system administration functions. With Bash scripting, you can automate repetitive tasks, develop system maintenance scripts, construct deployment pipelines, and more. Moreover, Bash scripts can be used to manage software systems, install and configure applications, and manipulate data.

What is a Bash Function?

A Bash function can be defined as a set of commands that are either defined within a Bash script or interactively set at the command prompt depending on the use case. Once defined, a Bash function can be called multiple times within the script or in other scripts, just like a regular shell command to shorten the needed time and reduce coding complexity.

Bash functions allow you to create reusable blocks of code that can perform complex operations, organize your code, and simplify your scripts. You can pass arguments to a Bash function, which can then be used within the function to perform operations on those arguments. Additionally, Bash functions can return values that can be used in other parts of your script.

There are many different types of Bash script functions, such as declaration, calling, return, arguments, etc., all of which will be covered further down the blog post.

Why Use Bash Functions?

Now that the definition of Bash functions is covered, let’s review their main advantages. You can use this section to better familiarize yourself with the specific places where Bash functions can be useful.


You create a Bash function, and suddenly, you have a powerful tool in your hands. You can write a code block once and reuse it multiple times within your script or even in other scripts. This not only makes your code more efficient but also saves you time and effort by eliminating code duplication. Plus, maintaining your code becomes a breeze as you only need to change the function in one place.


We all know the struggle of deciphering complex scripts. But fear not, because Bash functions come to the rescue! By breaking down your script into smaller, more manageable parts, you enhance its readability. Each function serves a specific purpose, carrying a descriptive name that speaks volumes about its role. This helps you understand your script better and makes it easier for others to follow along and maintain your code. It’s like providing a roadmap to navigate through your script’s logic.


Flexibility is the name of the game, and Bash functions excel at it. With functions, you can modularize your code, giving it a structure that’s easier to manage. Need to add a new feature? No worries! You can do it without causing chaos in other parts of your script. Similarly, when it’s time to remove or modify functionality, you can confidently do so, knowing that the rest of your script remains intact. It’s like building with LEGO bricks – each piece fits together seamlessly, allowing you to adapt your script to different scenarios.

Bash Function Parameters

You can pass arguments, or parameters, to your functions. It’s like giving them a set of instructions tailored to specific situations. These arguments empower your functions to adapt and perform different actions based on the inputs they receive. This opens up endless possibilities, making your functions versatile and adaptable to various scenarios.

How and Where to Use Bash Function?

Now let’s get a little technical with our definition and start with a short example of how to start and create a Bash function. The following syntax code can be used in UNIX-based environments to create an initial Bash function. Although if you really want, you can install Bash on Windows as well.

Creating a Bash Function

Start by using the following command:

function_name () {
    # command

Once you have created the function, you can use it in your code anytime with the following command:

Cloudzy () {
    echo "Hello, $1!"

Bash Syntax

Bash syntax refers to the rules and conventions that govern how Bash scripts are written and interpreted. Bash syntax includes various components, such as commands, variables, functions, conditional statements, loops, and more. Almost all the crucial Bash elements are a subsidiary within the overall Bash Syntax. Here are some of the most important ones.


Bash declaration refers to the process of defining variables and functions in a Bash script. Variable declaration creates a named container to store values or information that can be used throughout the script. For example, if you want to store the name of a file in a variable, you can declare the variable with the filename=”example.txt” command. You can then use the variable throughout the script to refer to the file name.


When you call a Bash script, you’re triggering a series of commands or tasks that have been written in a script file. It’s like unleashing the script’s power and watching it come to life.

On the other hand, calling a Bash function involves executing a specific block of code that resides within a larger script. It’s like summoning a dedicated portion of the script to perform a specialized task. Bash calling is the cornerstone of working with Bash, empowering you to automate tasks, break down your code into manageable chunks, and maintain a well-organized and efficient script structure.


The concept of Bash function return holds great significance. It allows us to define the outcome or result of a function’s execution. This outcome is represented by an exit status, a numeric value that determines whether the function accomplished its task or encountered an error.

By default, a Bash function derives its exit status from the last command executed within it. However, we possess the power to explicitly set the Bash function return value, providing precise control over the exit status. This command structure acts as our guiding compass in specifying the desired outcome:

function my_function {
    # Some code here...
    return 0


Variables play a vital role in storing valuable information that can be utilized throughout your script. These variables have case-sensitive names, allowing you to distinguish between different variables. When naming variables, you can use letters, numbers, and underscores, painting a canvas of possibilities.

To bring a variable to life in Bash, you declare and assign a value to it using a specific syntax with the following pattern:

my_var="Hello, world!"


Arguments make your scripts flexible and reusable. When you call a function, you can pass different values to it as the argument.

In Bash, retrieving these arguments is a breeze by employing the $1, $2, $3, and so on. These variables symbolize distinct arguments, such as the first, second, and third. Picture them as labeled containers, each holding a unique piece of information. For instance, if you desire to access the first argument provided to a script, you can refer to the $1 variable, like unveiling the treasure concealed within the first container. Consider this example:

echo "The first argument is: $1"

Top 10 Most Commonly Used Bash Functions and Their Use Cases

Now that you know the intermediate basics of Bash scripting and functions, let’s introduce you to the top ten most commonly used Bash functions and their use cases.


The echo function prints a message or value to the console. It takes a string or variable as an argument and outputs it to the console. You can use echo to display debug information or status messages during the execution of a script. For example, echo “Processing file: $filename” would output the message “Processing file: filename” to the console, with the value of the $filename variable substituted in.


The cd function is used to change the current directory. It takes a directory path as an argument and changes the current working directory to that path. You can use cd to navigate between directories in a script. For example, cd /path/to/directory would change the current directory to the directory specified.


The mkdir function is used to create a new directory. It takes a directory path as an argument and creates a new directory with that name. You can use mkdir to create directories in a script. For example, mkdir /path/to/newdirectory would create a new directory named “newdirectory” in the given path.


The rm function is used to remove a file or directory. It takes a file or directory path as an argument and removes that file or directory. You can use rm to delete files or directories in a script. For example, rm /path/to/file would delete the file located at “/path/to/file.”


The grep function searches for a pattern in a file or output. It takes a regular expression as an argument and searches for that pattern in a file or output. You can use grep to find specific lines or patterns in log files or other text files. For example, grep “ERROR” logfile.txt would output any lines in the file “logfile.txt” that contain the string “ERROR.”


The sed function performs text transformations on a file or output. It takes a regular expression as an argument and replaces any matching patterns with a specified string. You can use  to replace text or perform other transformations on log files or other text files. For example, sed ‘s/oldstring/newstring/g’ file.txt would replace all occurrences of “oldstring” with “newstring” in “file.txt.”


The awk function processes and manipulates text data in a file or output. It takes a pattern or regular expression as an argument and performs various text transformations on the input data. You can use awk to extract specific fields or perform other text transformations. For example, awk ‘{print $1,$2}’ file.txt would output the first two fields of each line in “file.txt.”


The printf function is used to format and print output to the console. It takes a format string and one or more arguments and outputs the formatted string to the console. You can use printf to display formatted messages or data in a script. For example, printf “The value of x is %d\n” $x would output the message “The value of x is ” followed by the value of the $x variable.


The source function is used to execute commands in the current shell environment. It takes a filename as an argument and executes the commands in that file in the current shell.


The Bash function return command is used to exit a function and return a value to the function’s caller (commonly known as Bash function return value). One common use case for the return command is in error handling. A function may perform some operation and return a value indicating whether the operation was successful or not. The caller can then check the return value and take action based on whether the operation succeeded or failed.

Another use case for the return command is in complex scripts where multiple functions perform different tasks. The functions can return values to the main script, which can then use those values to make decisions or perform further operations.


In conclusion, Bash functions are essential for creating modular and reusable scripts. They allow you to group related commands together and encapsulate complex logic to make your code easier to read and maintain.

In this article, I’ve covered the basics of Bash functions, including how to define and call functions and the most popular Bash function scripts. I also covered some common use cases for Bash functions to better get you going on your Bash use journey. By using Bash functions in your scripts, you can write cleaner, more modular code that is easier to understand and maintain!

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Can Bash functions have local variables?

Absolutely! Bash functions can have local variables too. You can use the “local” keyword to declare a variable as local to the function. You need to restrict it to the local aspects of your project.

Can Bash functions be recursive?

Yes, Bash functions can be recursive. However, Bash has a relatively small default call stack size, meaning that depending on the recursive functions you have in mind, you need to increase the call stack size accordingly. You can use the “ulimit” command for this purpose.

Can I use Bash functions in other scripts?

No, Bash functions are specific to the Bash shell and cannot be used in scripts written in other languages or shells.

Can I Use Bash functions in pipelines?

No, Bash functions cannot be directly used in pipelines because they are not standalone executables. However, you can combine them with other shell commands and utilities within a pipeline to achieve the desired functionality.

What is Shell Script Function?

A shell script function refers to a defined block of code within a shell script that serves a specific purpose and can be called from various parts of the script. Functions in shell scripts bear a resemblance to functions found in other programming languages and offer great value in terms of code modularity, enhanced reusability, and streamlined maintenance. In the context of Bash scripting, functions are encapsulated within the overall script function.

Can I use if in Bash?

Yes, you can use the if statement in Bash for conditional branching. Check our full guide on Bash if statement.

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