Unix Shell

University of Minnesota


Oct 26-27, 2020

1:00 pm - 4:00 pm Monday, 1:00 pm - 2:30 pm Tuesday

Instructors: David Naughton, Peter Wiringa

Helpers: Nick Dunn, Cody Hennessy

General Information

Software Carpentry aims to help researchers get their work done in less time and with less pain by teaching them basic research computing skills. This hands-on workshop will cover basic concepts and tools, including program design, version control, data management, and task automation. Participants will be encouraged to help one another and to apply what they have learned to their own research problems.

For more information on what we teach and why, please see our paper "Best Practices for Scientific Computing".

Who: The course is aimed at graduate students and other researchers. You don't need to have any previous knowledge of the tools that will be presented at the workshop.

Where: This training will take place online. The instructors will provide you with the information you will need to connect to this meeting.

When: Oct 26-27, 2020. Add to your Google Calendar.

Requirements: Participants must bring a laptop with a Mac, Linux, or Windows operating system (not a tablet, Chromebook, etc.) that they have administrative privileges on. They should have a few specific software packages installed (listed below).

Accessibility: We are dedicated to providing a positive and accessible learning environment for all. Please notify the instructors in advance of the workshop if you require any accommodations or if there is anything we can do to make this workshop more accessible to you.

Contact: Please email mbostrom@umn.edu for more information.

Roles: To learn more about the roles at the workshop (who will be doing what), refer to our Workshop FAQ.

Code of Conduct

Everyone who participates in Carpentries activities is required to conform to the Code of Conduct. This document also outlines how to report an incident if needed.

Collaborative Notes

We will use this collaborative document for chatting, taking notes, and sharing URLs and bits of code.


Please be sure to complete these surveys before and after the workshop.

Pre-workshop Survey

Post-workshop Survey


Monday, October 26, 2020

Before Pre-workshop survey
13:00 Automating Tasks with the Unix Shell
14:35 Break
14:45 Automating Tasks with the Unix Shell (Continued)
15:55 Wrap-up
16:00 END

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

13:00 Automating Tasks with the Unix Shell (Continued)
14:20 Wrap-up
14:25 Post-workshop Survey
14:30 END


The Unix Shell

  • Files and Directories
  • History and Tab Completion
  • Pipes and Redirection
  • Looping Over Files
  • Creating and Running Shell Scripts
  • Finding Things
  • Reference...


To participate in a Software Carpentry workshop, you will need access to the software described below. In addition, you will need an up-to-date web browser.

We maintain a list of common issues that occur during installation as a reference for instructors that may be useful on the Configuration Problems and Solutions wiki page.

Install the videoconferencing client

If you haven't used Zoom before, go to the official website to download and install the Zoom client for your computer.

Set up your workspace

Like other Carpentries workshops, you will be learning by "coding along" with the Instructors. To do this, you will need to have both the window for the tool you will be learning about (a terminal, RStudio, your web browser, etc..) and the window for the Zoom video conference client open. In order to see both at once, we recommend using one of the following set up options:

This blog post includes detailed information on how to set up your screen to follow along during the workshop.

The Bash Shell

Bash is a commonly-used shell that gives you the power to do tasks more quickly.

  1. Download the Git for Windows installer.
  2. Run the installer and follow the steps below:
    1. Click on "Next" four times (two times if you've previously installed Git). You don't need to change anything in the Information, location, components, and start menu screens.
    2. From the dropdown menu select "Use the nano editor by default" and click on "Next".
    3. Ensure that "Git from the command line and also from 3rd-party software" is selected and click on "Next". (If you don't do this Git Bash will not work properly, requiring you to remove the Git Bash installation, re-run the installer and to select the "Git from the command line and also from 3rd-party software" option.)
    4. Ensure that "Use the native Windows Secure Channel library" is selected and click on "Next".
    5. Ensure that "Checkout Windows-style, commit Unix-style line endings" is selected and click on "Next".
    6. Ensure that "Use Windows' default console window" is selected and click on "Next".
    7. Ensure that "Default (fast-forward or merge) is selected and click "Next"
    8. Ensure that "Enable file system caching" and "Enable Git Credential Manager" are selected and click on "Next".
    9. Click on "Install".
    10. Click on "Finish" or "Next".
  3. If your "HOME" environment variable is not set (or you don't know what this is):
    1. Open command prompt (Open Start Menu then type cmd and press Enter)
    2. Type the following line into the command prompt window exactly as shown:

      setx HOME "%USERPROFILE%"

    3. Press Enter, you should see SUCCESS: Specified value was saved.
    4. Quit command prompt by typing exit then pressing Enter

This will provide you with both Git and Bash in the Git Bash program.

Video Tutorial

The default shell in some versions of macOS is Bash, and Bash is available in all versions, so no need to install anything. You access Bash from the Terminal (found in /Applications/Utilities). See the Git installation video tutorial for an example on how to open the Terminal. You may want to keep Terminal in your dock for this workshop.

To see if your default shell is Bash type echo $SHELL in Terminal and press the Return key. If the message printed does not end with '/bash' then your default is something else and you can run Bash by typing bash

If you want to change your default shell, see this Apple Support article and follow the instructions on "How to change your default shell".

Video Tutorial

The default shell is usually Bash and there is usually no need to install anything.

To see if your default shell is Bash type echo $SHELL in a terminal and press the Enter key. If the message printed does not end with '/bash' then your default is something else and you can run Bash by typing bash.