test (Unix)

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test is a command-line utility found in Unix-like operating systems that evaluates conditional expressions.


 test expression 


 [ expression ] 


The test command in Unix evaluates the expression parameter. In some shells such as FreeBSD sh(1) it is a shell builtin, even though the external version still exists. In the second form of the command, the [ ] (brackets) must be surrounded by blank spaces. This is because [ is a program and POSIX compatible shells require a space between the program name and its arguments. One must test explicitly for file names in the C shell. File-name substitution (globbing) causes the shell script to exit.


The following arguments are used to construct this parameter:

 -e FileName - FileName exists 

All remaining arguments return true if the object (file or string) exists, and the condition specified is true.

 -b Filename - Returns a True exit value if the specified FileName exists and is a block special file -c FileName - FileName is a character special file -d FileName - FileName is a directory  -f FileName - FileName is a regular file -g FileName - FileName's Set Group ID bit is set -h FileName - FileName is a symbolic link -k FileName - FileName's sticky bit is set -L FileName - FileName is a symbolic link -p FileName - FileName is a named pipe (FIFO) -r FileName - FileName is readable by the current process -s FileName - FileName has a size greater than 0 -t FileDescriptor - FileDescriptor is open and associated with a terminal -u FileName - FileName's Set User ID bit is set 
 -w FileName - FileName's write flag is on. However, the FileName will not be writable on a read-only file system even if test indicates true 
 -x FileName - FileName's execute flag is on If the specified file exists and is a directory, the True exit value indicates that the current process has permission to change cd into the directory. 
 file1 -nt file2 - file1 is newer than file2 file1 -ot file2 - file1 is older than file2 file1 -ef file2 - file1 is another name for file2 - (symbolic link or hard link) 

String arguments[edit]

In Perl, these sections are reversed: eq is a string operator and == is a numerical operator, and so on for the others.

 -n String1 - the length of the String1 variable is nonzero -z String1 - the length of the String1 variable is 0 (zero) String1 = String2 - String1 and String2 variables are identical String1 != String2 - String1 and String2 variables are not identical String1 - String1 variable is not a null string 

Number arguments[edit]

 Integer1 -eq Integer2 - Integer1 and Integer2 variables are algebraically equal -ne - not equal -gt - greater than -ge - greater or equal  -lt - less than -le - less or equal 


test arguments can be combined with the following operators:

 ! - Unary negation operator -a - Binary AND operator -o - Binary OR operator (the -a operator has higher precedence than the -o operator) \(Expression\) - Parentheses for grouping must be escaped with a backslash \ 

The -a and -o operators, along with parentheses for grouping, are XSI extensions[1] and are therefore not portable. In portable shell scripts, the same effect may be achieved by connecting multiple invocations of test together with the && and || operators and parentheses.

Exit Status[edit]

This command returns the following exit values:

 0 - The Expression parameter is true 1 - The Expression parameter is false or missing >1 - An error occurred 


1. To test whether a file is nonexistent or empty, type:

  if test ! -s "$1"  then    echo $1 does not exist or is empty.  fi 

If the file specified by the first positional parameter to the shell procedure, $1, does not exist or is of size 0, the test command displays the message. If $1 exists and has a size greater than 0, the test command displays nothing.

Note: There must be a space between the -s function and the file name.

The quotation marks around $1 ensure that the test works properly even if the value of $1 is a null string. If the quotation marks are omitted and $1 is the empty string, the test command displays the error message:

 test: argument expected. 

2. To do a complex comparison, type:

  if [ $# -lt 2 -o ! -e "$1" ]  then    exit  fi 

If the shell procedure is given fewer than two positional parameters or the file specified by $1 does not exist, then the shell procedure exits. The special shell variable $# represents the number of positional parameters entered on the command line that starts this shell procedure.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ IEEE Std 1003.1, 2004, documentation for test