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Learning the Korn Shell

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Intended Audience

This book is designed to appeal most closely to casual UNIX users who are just above the "raw beginner" level. You should be familiar with the process of logging in, entering commands, and doing simple things with files. Although Chapter 1, Korn Shell Basics, reviews concepts such as the tree-like file and directory scheme, you may find that it moves too quickly if you're a complete neophyte. In that case, we recommend the O'Reilly & Associates Nutshell Handbook, Learning the UNIX Operating System, by Grace Todino and John Strang.

If you're an experienced user, you may wish to skip Chapter 1 altogether. But if your experience is with the C shell, you may find that Chapter 1 reveals a few subtle differences between the Korn and C shells.

No matter what your level of experience is, you will undoubtedly learn many things in this book that make you a more productive Korn shell user - from major features down to details at the "nook-and-cranny" level that you weren't aware of.

If you are interested in shell programming (writing shell scripts and functions that automate everyday tasks or serve as system utilities), you should find this book useful too. However, we have deliberately avoided drawing a strong distinction between interactive shell use (entering commands during a login session) and shell programming. We see shell programming as a natural, inevitable outgrowth of increasing experience as a user.

Accordingly, each chapter depends on those previous to it, and although the first three chapters are oriented toward interactive use only, subsequent chapters describe interactive user-oriented features in addition to programming concepts.

In fact, if this book has an overriding message, it is: "The Korn shell is an incredibly powerful and grossly undervalued UNIX programming environment. You - yes, you - can write useful shell programs, even if you just learned how to log on last week and have never programmed before."

Toward that end, we have decided not to spend much time on features of interest exclusively to low-level systems programmers. Concepts like file descriptors, errno error numbers, special file types, etc., can only confuse the casual user, and anyway, we figure that those of you who understand such things are smart enough to extrapolate the necessary information from our cursory discussions.

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