When writing bash scripts, it’s common to encounter a variety of errors, especially when you’re first starting out. One common error message that users often encounter is the “syntax error near unexpected token newline”. This error typically indicates an unexpected character, an unpaired delimiter, or a missing semicolon at the end of the line. In this article, we will explore this error in detail, particularly when it occurs due to the improper usage of angle brackets (`<` and `>`).
Understanding Bash Scripting and Angle Brackets
Before diving into the error, it’s important to understand how angle brackets are used in bash scripting. Angle brackets, `<` and `>`, are primarily used for input and output redirection.
- The `>` operator is used to redirect the output of a command to a file, overwriting any existing content.
echo "Hello World" > file.txt
This script will output “Hello World” and write it into file.txt.
- The `>>` operator is used similarly, but it appends the output to the end of the file instead of overwriting it.
- The < operator is used to provide input to a command from a file.
sort < file.txt
This script will sort the contents of file.txt.
- Bash also provides process substitution using the `<()` or `>()` syntax.
diff <(command1) <(command2)
This script will compare the outputs of command1 and command2.
Troubleshooting the Error
When the bash interpreter encounters an angle bracket that isn't used correctly - for example, it's unpaired, or the file or command that should follow it is missing - you'll see a "syntax error near unexpected token newline" error message. For example, the command `echo
Resolving the Error
There are a few different strategies to resolve this error:
- Correct the redirection: If the angle brackets are intended for redirection, ensure each one is paired with a valid file or command. For example, `sort < file.txt` will work because file.txt is a valid file. On the other hand, `sort <` will trigger an error because there is no file specified.
- Avoid XML or HTML syntax: Bash does not understand these languages. So, if you are using tags such as `<br/>` or `<tag>` in your bash script, it will result in a syntax error.
- Use quotation marks: If the angle brackets are part of a string and not meant for redirection or process substitution, make sure they are correctly quoted. Bash will treat anything enclosed in quotation marks as a single argument and won't try to interpret special characters. For example, `echo "<Hello World>"` will correctly output the string "<Hello World>".
Bash scripting is a powerful tool for automating tasks in Unix-like operating systems. By understanding how it interprets special characters like angle brackets and knowing how to troubleshoot common errors, you can write more robust scripts and avoid common pitfalls. Keep in mind the proper use of angle brackets, redirection, and quotation marks to prevent the "syntax error near unexpected token newline" and maintain a smooth scripting experience.