Notes on Codecademy “Learn Bash Scripting”

After a frustrating time with Codecademy’s “Learn Sass” practice projects, I poked around the course catalog for something quick and easy to go through. I saw the “Learn Bash Scripting” course which had just a one-hour estimate for time commitment. Less than an hour later, I can say it met expectations: it was quick and easy covering a few basic things, leaving plenty more for me to learn on my own if I wanted to.

Technically speaking I’ve already been making shell scripts to automate a few repetitive tasks, but they have all just been lists of commands I would have typed at the command line. Maybe an echo or two to emit text, but no more. If I had needed to automate something that required decision-making logic, I used to go to something like Python. Which works but rather heavyweight if all I wanted was, say, a single if statement in reaction to a single user input. I could have done that with a shell script.

And after taking this course, I know how. One of the first things we saw was if/then/else/fi. There is a limited set of logical operators available, along with warnings that spaces are consequential. (One extra space or one missing space become syntax errors.) Getting user input from a read is straightforward, though parsing the resulting string and error-handling weren’t covered. We also got to see loop commands for, until, and while. What we did not cover in this course were how to define functions to be called elsewhere in the script in order to reduce repetition. That was the only thing I wished the course covered. If I wanted to do anything more sophisticated that the above, I would likely go to Python as I used to do.

The practice project associated with this course was touted as a “build script” but it’s not a makefile, just a series of copy commands interspersed with a bit of logic. I was a little annoyed it assumed we knew command line tools not covered in class, like head and read, but I’ve learned about them now and I could add them to my command-line toolbox.

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