Mostly useful or: How I learned to stop typing and write a few Bash aliases

A very short list of a few interesting Bash aliases.

The vim quitter

If you use vim, :q/:wq is perhaps muscle memory at this point. You can now :q/:wq in bash too,

alias :q='exit'
alias :wq='exit'

I think I came across this online a few years ago.

The GTK themer

I use the Adwaita dark theme on Gnome. But some applications have very poor dark theme appearance, such as gitg. So I find myself opening them in light theme. You typically do something like this to override the theme on a per application basis,

$ GTK_THEME=Adwaita:light gitg &

But that’s kinda hard to remember and I typically don’t and instead rely on Bash history search, c-r.

Instead, we can define,

alias gtk-light='GTK_THEME=Adwaita:light'


$ gtk-light gitg &

works as you’d expect and much easier to remember.

The fun pipe


To explain this one, perhaps some motivating examples are necessary.

Suppose a file, data.txt, contains some file path in it,

filepath =

We can pull out from this file using some basic tools,

$ grep "filepath =" data.txt | awk '{ print $3 }'

But we can’t now open it in vim for example without having to do something (inelegant) like,

$ vim $(grep "filepath =" data.txt | awk '{ print $3 }')

Now for something completely different. Consider functional languages, like Haskell, Elm or F#, where we can do something like,

import Html exposing (text)
import Debug exposing (toString)

sum a b = a + b

triple a = a * 3

main = sum 1 2 |> triple |> toString |> text

This example is in Elm. Here main outputs "9". The |> are pipe-forward infix functions that pass the output of the previous pipeline stage to the next function. For example sum 1 2 |> triple is equivalent to triple (sum 1 2).

Quite elegant and eliminates the amount of text manipulation we have to do. Whereas in the bash example we had to wrap the grep and awk in a subshell $(...).

Enter the fun-pipe (1)

$ grep "filepath =" data.txt | awk '{ print $3 }' |:: vim _


The _ stands in for the stdout of the precious stage of the pipeline.

Note that |:: isn’t actually a single ‘operator’. It’s in fact the standard Bash pipe, |, and our new fun-pipe alias, ::, just without a space between.

We can define the fun-pipe as,

alias ::='xargs -i_ --'

Originally I had defined this as just :, but I noticed some issues with bash completion as : is actually an existing Bash builtin operator. I would’ve liked to define it as > so |> could be realized, similar to F# and Elm, but > is another bash builtin and Bash complains if you try to define an alias with it.


(1): fpipe was the first name I thought of, but doing a quick search shows there is actually already a fpipe project that does something somewhat similar – alexmaco/fpipe.