The lightweight and simple Bash library realpath-lib provides functions that can resolve the full path associated with symlinks and file names. There are several environments available but by default the function get_realpath will emulate the popular, but often not available, command utility GNU readlink -f.
Core functions are:
realpath-lib was inspired in part by realpath tools that are available in other programming languages. This script illustrates that path processing can be done in Bash with minimal dependencies. This script requires only the widely used Posix® compliant standard utility ls to resolve symlinked file names only.
Although we have not tested this script widely, it should work across most, if not all, Unix systems and variants.
Recent work writing scripts that should function the same way across Mac, Linux and Windows has revealed that certain system/Bash tools are not available for all platforms. Quite often the recommended way of resolving file names is to use utilities such as readlink, basename, dirname or perhaps others that have often led to portability issues.
For this reason we have prepared this set of tools for use in Bash scripts with only simple built-in features and one widely available Posix® standard utility ls.
There are number of beneficial features:
Bash 4+ and only one dependency, the Posix® standard ls.
- Almost complete portability across Unix systems, Mac (and Windows?).
- Emulation of readlink -f (without readlink!) by default.
- No need for external dependencies basename, dirname or readlink.
- Diagnostic investigation of symlinks, circular references, and chains.
set_strict, ensuring targets are regular, not broken and exist.
set_logical, for efficient determination of logical absolute paths.
- Test scripts to assess platform compatabiity and readlink emulation.
- Robust design approach, minimal side effects with custom environments.
- Exception system that throws exit status and suggests solutions.
- Compact, efficient source that is well commented and easy to maintain.
- Free and open source, under the liberal terms of the MIT license.
The path argument can be provided as a local file name, relative path or an absolute path. It permits symlinks to be resolved by default by emulating readlink -f. Interface methods are classified into two groups: getters and validators.
There are a number of environments that are summarized under the section that follows. These are also explained in detail in the source code file.
The following functions will resolve the path argument to a full absolute path string (if it exists) and throw a status condition of 0 for success or 1 to 7 for failure - meaning they can be used for testing purposes too.
where path-arg can be a local file, a relative path or absolute path.
The function validate_realpath will throw a status condition of 0 for success or will abort on failure. This leads us to the following warning: do not use validate_realpath at the top level of your shell - as a failure to validate will kill the shell and any sub-processes!
where path-arg is the same as above.
There are three settable environments (default values are shown):
As indicated previously, the default (out of the box) settings are done to emulate the command readlink -f. Another interesting feature of the default settings is that the chain of symlinks for a given path can be unwound where an error is thrown - useful for diagnostic purposes. Capture stderr to view this information. The test scripts are illustrative.
set_strict: setting this environment enforces strict checking of target paths. A path must exist and must lead to a regular file, a symlink target must exist, and a symlink cannot be broken. This is at odds with the command readlink -f.
Note that a given system may have system limits on link recursion. So invoking the environment set_strict may lead to an unspecified error where very deep symlink chains exist.
set_logical: setting this environment will see that symlinked files will not be resolved to the physical system. This is at odds with the command readlink -f.
Note that the environment set_max_depth is not used nor will symlink chains be assessed when set_logical is invoked.
set_max_depth: setting this environment controls the depth of symlink recursion. Recursion exits on three conditions: 1) when a duplicate reference occcurs (as a circular reference), 2) when the set_max_depth is reached, or 3) when the built-in internal limit (40) is reached, whichever occurs first. So if the set_max_depth is set to greater than 40, it will be disregarded, and 40 shall be enforced. Of course this limit can be changed, but will require modification of the source.
Dependencies are Bash 4+, Posix® standard ls and nothing else. This could be refactored to work with earlier Bash versions but we leave this as an exercise for others.
Where the dependency ls is required but cannot be found (only in the special case where symlinks are files, it is not needed to resolve directory symlinks), the script will throw a non-zero status and exit with a message to stderr.
This is not a Bash executable. Source it at the beginning of your executable script with:
As indicated previously, the default setting is to emulate the command utility readlink -f. Environment settings can be incorporated within your script or inline as:
get_realpath 'path-arg' # emulate readlink -f, traverse a link chain of 5 set_strict=true set_logical=true set_max_depth=20 get_realpath 'path-arg' set_strict= set_logical=true set_max_depth=10 get_stemname 'path-arg'
and so on.
Two test scripts have been added and successfully tested on Linux, Solaris, Mac OSX and BSD. These resulted from issues identified within a thread of November 2013 that can be found here.
The scripts are: 1) make-generic-test.sh and 2) make-readlink-test.sh. The generic test script can be used to test the script on a specific system, whereas the readlink script can be used to assess the library against the expected result of the readlink command. Note that, as of the Auno merge of February 2014, GNU readlink is no longer required to conduct this test. These scripts can also be used to gain a better understanding of realpath-lib.
As part of tests, a directory and subdirectories are created that are traversed in order to test such things as chained symlinks, symlinks of circular reference, broken symlinks, non-existent symlinks or files and others. A tree for this found in the source code files. It can also be examined by the command tree foo after running the script.
Both scripts will produce a uniquely stamped test log and error log that will be displayed upon completion. These can be used for diagnostic purposes on any given Bash system. The logs can be supplied to us should you have problems using realpath-lib on your system.
The following is an excerpt from the test output (stdout) of make-generic-test.sh:
### Circular references, paths from 'foo/' for files that are symlinks ######## Try get_realpath circular ref foo/bar1/foo->bar1.sym set_logical=true Pass Try get_realpath circular ref foo/bar1/foo->bar1.sym set_logical= Pass Try get_realpath circular ref foo/bar2/foo->bar2.sym set_logical=true Pass Try get_realpath circular ref foo/bar2/foo->bar2.sym set_logical= Pass Try get_dirname circular ref foo/bar1/foo->bar1.sym set_logical=true Pass Try get_dirname circular ref foo/bar1/foo->bar1.sym set_logical= Pass Try get_extension circular ref foo/bar1/foo->bar1.sym set_logical=true Pass Try get_extension circular ref foo/bar1/foo->bar1.sym set_logical= Pass ....
The following is an excerpt from the error output (stderr) of make-generic-test.sh:
### Circular references, paths from 'foo/' for files that are symlinks ######## L  -> /home/user/realpath-test/foo/bar2/foo->bar2.sym L  -> /home/user/realpath-test/foo/bar1/foo->bar1.sym L  -> /home/user/realpath-test/foo/bar2/foo->bar2.sym E  Symlink circular reference issue has been detected ... -----> Symlink circular reference should be investigated manually ... L  -> /home/user/realpath-test/foo/bar1/foo->bar1.sym L  -> /home/user/realpath-test/foo/bar2/foo->bar2.sym L  -> /home/user/realpath-test/foo/bar1/foo->bar1.sym E  Symlink circular reference issue has been detected ... -----> Symlink circular reference should be investigated manually ... L  -> /home/user/realpath-test/foo/bar2/foo->bar2.sym L  -> /home/user/realpath-test/foo/bar1/foo->bar1.sym L  -> /home/user/realpath-test/foo/bar2/foo->bar2.sym E  Symlink circular reference issue has been detected ... -----> Symlink circular reference should be investigated manually ... ...
L [..] denotes the link (shallow to deep). E [..] denotes the error message emitted. -----> denotes a possible solution.
To use the 'getters' for testing purposes, do something like:
get_realpath "$1" &>/dev/null if (( $? )) # true when non-zero. then # Do failure actions. return 1 # Failure. fi
While these are designed to be used exclusively in scripts, some top level shell examples are:
[user@host MyLib]$ ls '/home/user/MyLib/archive.tar.gz' /home/user/MyLib/archive.tar.gz [user@host MyLib]$ source realpath-lib [user@host MyLib]$ [user@host MyLib]$ get_realpath 'archive.tar.gz' /home/user/MyLib/archive.tar.gz [user@host MyLib]$ get_dirname 'archive.tar.gz' /home/user/MyLib [user@host MyLib]$ get_filename 'archive.tar.gz' archive.tar.gz [user@host MyLib]$ get_stemname 'archive.tar.gz' archive [user@host MyLib]$ validate_realpath 'archive.tar.gz' [user@host MyLib]$ [user@host MyLib]$ cd ../Templates [user@host Templates]$ [user@host Templates]$ get_realpath '../MyLib/archive.tar.gz' /home/user/MyLib/archive.tar.gz [user@host Templates]$ get_dirname '../MyLib/archive.tar.gz' /home/user/MyLib [user@host Templates]$ get_filename '../MyLib/archive.tar.gz' archive.tar.gz [user@host Templates]$ get_stemname '../MyLib/archive.tar.gz' archive [user@host Templates]$ validate_realpath '../MyLib/archive.tar.gz' [user@host Templates]$
The library is designed with private and interface methods in mind. The function get_realpath is the core function for the system and the only function that is permitted to emit error messages and status. The other interface functions are wrappers that simply pass through the return status of get_realpath. So it is possible to do the following (as a contrived example) and expect consistent results:
get_realpath 'path' get_stemname 'path' get_stemname "$(get_realpath 'path')" get_realpath "$(get_realpath 'path')" get_stemname "$(get_realpath "$(get_realpath 'path')")"
The last three examples will not be as efficient as the first two and are not recommended, but the robust nature is illustrated.
The non-zero status conditions are not necessarily errors. For example, readlink -f returns nothing if a circular reference is encountered. This condition will throw a status 3 under get_realpath but this is not an error. It is intentional behaviour by default.
Finally, we have attempted to use naming conventions that should avoid collisions with other scripts. This is not ensured, however, and care is required.
We offer this to the community for free and you may use it as you wish.
This source is Copyright (C) Applied Numerics Ltd 2013-2014, Great Britain, under the brand name AsymLabs (TM) and is provided to the community under the MIT license. Although we have not yet encountered any issues, there is no warranty of any type given so you must use it at your own risk.
We are interested in the user experience with this library. If you wish, contact us to let us know if it works for your platform.
We can be contacted by email (as below) or you may start an issue thread that provides the results of your tests if you wish. We'll try to address your concerns.
We hope that you find this Bash library to be of value. Should you decide to use it on your project, or should you have any comments or suggestions for improvement, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.