2012-04-24

Process substitution


Process substitution

Process substitution takes the form of <(list) or >(list). The process list is run with its input or output connected to a FIFO or some file in /dev/fd. The name of this file is passed as an argument to the current command as the result of the expansion. If the >(list) form is used, writing to the file will provide input for list. If the <(list) form is used, the file passed as an argument should be read to obtain the output of list. When available, process substitution is performed simultaneously with parameter and variable expansion, command substitution, and arithmetic expansion.

So what does this mean? Well basically that you can substitute files for command input/output. Imagine you want to compare the output of two files using diff you could do something like

$ diff <(echo afile) <(echo anotherfile)

Now, the real power comes with using process substitution in conjunction with tee. Just look at the next command and be stunned with the usefulness of this little nifty piece of feature.

ps aux | tee >(grep ^root > /tmp/rootps) >(grep ^simon > /tmp/simon)

Which will list all processes, write all processes owned by root to one file and the processes owned by simon to another file.

Convenient, huh?

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