How to pass parameters to an alias?

For bash script, I can use "$@" to access arguments. What’s the equivalent when I use an alias?

Asked By: prosseek


You don’t have to do anything, actually; aliases do this automatically. For instance:

$ alias less="less -eirqM"
$ less foo.txt

You will see foo.txt’s first page, and less will quit at EOF (-e), searches will be case-insensitive (-i), etc.

Answered By: Warren Young

Aliases are like commands in that all arguments to them are passed as arguments to the program they alias. For instance:

alias ls='ls -l -a -t -r'
# This now executes 'ls -l -a -t -r foo bar'
ls foo bar

If you want to have actual control over how the arguments are interpreted, then you could write a function like so:

my_program_wrapper() {
    local first_arg=$1 

    shift 2 # get rid of the first two arguments

    # ...

    /path/to/my_program "$@"
Answered By: amphetamachine

Adding to the present answers, an important thing to realize about how aliases work is that all the parameters you type after an aliased command will be used literally at the end. So there is no way to use alias for two commands (piped or not), out of which the first should interpret the parameters. To make it clear, here’s an example of something that would not work as expected:

alias lsswp="ls -l | grep swp"

(an example inspired by this question) this will always use the output of ls -l performed in the current directory and do a grep on that – so using

lsswp /tmp/

would be equivalent to ls -l | grep swp /tmp/ and not ls -l /tmp/ | grep swp.

For all purposes where the arguments should be used somewhere in the middle, one needs to use a function instead of an alias.

Answered By: rozcietrzewiacz

Alias solution

If you’re really against using a function per se, you can use:

$ alias wrap_args='f(){ echo before "$@" after;  unset -f f; }; f'
$ wrap_args x y z
before x y z after

You can replace $@ with $1 if you only want the first argument.


This creates a temporary function f, which is passed the arguments.

Alias arguments are only passed at the end. Note that f is called at the very end of the alias.

The unset -f removes the function definition as the alias is executed so it doesn’t hang around afterwards.

Answered By: Tom Hale

I’m answering for csh:

Yes, you can use the parameters in aliases and – as a difference to what has been said above – you can refer to them anywhere in the definition of alias – not only at the end.

Example for tar-gz -ing something:

$ alias tgz "tar cvf - !:1 | gzip -9 > !:2.tar.gz"

, where !:1 and !:2 are the parameters you will supply when calling your alias.

Example of use:

    $ ls
    clrcf.dat                             user_comment_2016.06.03_12:51:50.txt  user_comment_2016.06.03_12:54:48.txt
        TEST-wADM.tec                         user_comment_2016.06.03_12:52:04.txt  user_comment_2016.06.03_12:55:13.txt

    $ tgz user* out
    a user_comment_2016.06.03_12:51:50.txt 1K
a user_comment_2016.06.03_12:52:04.txt 1K
a user_comment_2016.06.03_12:54:48.txt 1K
a user_comment_2016.06.03_12:55:13.txt 1K

    $ ls out*

Which effectively means that you used two parameters that you inserted at arbitrary places of the tar command, making of all of it an alias tgz

Answered By: stevica

This example, to pretty print a markdown file in the terminal, is working if the first command of the pipe is able to read from stdin:

alias mdcat='(pandoc | lynx -stdin -dump) <'

So mdcat can then be used instead of pandoc | lynx -stdin -dump.

This is not exactly answering your question, as it does not make "$@" available in the alias, but it probably answers some real-world usecases for this question.

Answered By: Francois Scheurer
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