BASH Programming

How to Use Set Command in Bash

In Bash, the set command allows you to manage certain flags and characteristics to influence how your bash scripts behave. These controls ensure that your scripts follow the correct path and that Bash’s peculiar behavior does not cause difficulties. The set command can be used to change the operating parameters of the shell environment, allowing it to be customized, which will be discussed in detail in this article.

How to use set command in Bash

You can take all the help related to the set command by typing.

$ set --help

As you can see in the above images, certain flags can be used with a set command, and we are going to discuss some of those to see how they function and their purposes.

How to stop overwriting files using set -C command

In general, you can overwrite an existing file with the same name, but this is not possible anymore if you use the “-C” flag, as shown below.

$ set -C

In the above image, you can see that we have created a text file with the name of “testfile.txt” and then we have also verified that file by running the list (ls) command. After that, we have created the same file again and overwrites it but you can see that it doesn’t allow you to create the same file again when you use a “set -C” command. This is an essential command to protect your data from overwriting by accident.

How to disable file name generation using set -f command

After that, you may want to turn off automatic filename displaying, sometimes known as “globbing.” Globbing is great for discovering files, but it can also be problematic if a rogue character shows up in the wrong place in your script. The ‘-f‘ flag turns it off.

For example, let’s run the list (ls) command by typing

$ ls *

This command is used to show you the directories and their subdirectories, but to disable this, you can type:

$ set -f

It can be seen in the above image that after running the “set -f” command, it doesn’t allow you to see the content.

How to debug a bash script using the set x command

Now let’s take another flag, “-x” and try to understand its functionality. You can also use the set command to observe which command in your script is being executed and a result. This allows you to debug more precisely by providing you with a real-time printout of where your script is and what each command’s output is. For example, we have created a bash file with “” as shown below and written any code.

Now let’s see its output by typing:

So we ran a basic bash script where we set a value of “var” to 5, and then we decrement its value till it’s greater than 0 and also use a sleep command for three seconds that will halt the process for 3 seconds before going into the next iteration. Let’s see its behavior if we write “set -x” inside the bash script, as shown below.

Now let’s view the result of this bash script by typing:

$ bash

As you can see from the above image, it shows you the output after each step, which makes it super useful for troubleshooting and debugging, especially if you have an extended code. You can also run this command without writing it in the bash script by typing.

$ bash -x

How to find an unbound variable in a bash script using set -u command

Let’s suppose you have assigned a variable but later you forget to use it in your bash scripting so it won’t display any error and ignore that variable when you run the bash script as shown below.

Now when you write the set -u then it will show you an error as “unbound variable” which means that you have initialized a variable but didn’t use it later which is not recommended for the programmers.

How to export the variable in Bash script using set -a command

This command is used to export the variables in your bash script file. For example, we have first executed the set -a command in the terminal and later initialized two variables as shown below.

After that, we have created a bash script with the name of “” and initialized those two variables as input by typing.

#! /bin/bash

echo $number1 $number2

When you execute the bash script file, you’ll see that the variable’s values have been automatically exported, and you can view those values as an output as shown below.


The set command in Bash allows you to control the behavior of your scripts by managing specific flags and properties. These safeguards guarantee that your scripts are on the right track and that Bash’s odd behavior does not cause problems. The set command can be used to adjust the shell environment’s operational settings, allowing it to be modified using certain flags that are discussed in this article.

About the author

Taimoor Mohsin