[EnglishFrontPage] [TitleIndex] [WordIndex

How can I trim leading/trailing white space from one of my variables?

There are a few ways to do this. Some involve special tricks that only work with whitespace. Others are more general, and can be used to strip leading zeroes, etc.

Here's one that only works for whitespace. It relies on the fact that read strips all leading and trailing whitespace when IFS isn't set:

   # POSIX, but fails if the variable contains newlines
   read -r var << EOF

Bash can do something similar with a "here string":

   # Bash
   read  -rd '' x <<< "$x"

Using an empty string as a delimiter means the read consumes the whole string, as NUL is used. (Remember: BASH only does C-string variables.) This is entirely safe for any text, including newlines.

Here's a solution using extglob together with parameter expansion:

   # Bash
   shopt -s extglob
   x=${x##+([[:space:]])} x=${x%%+([[:space:]])}

This also works in KornShell, without needing the explicit extglob setting:

   # ksh
   x=${x##+([[:space:]])} x=${x%%+([[:space:]])}

This solution isn't restricted to whitespace like the first few were. You can remove leading zeroes as well:

   # Bash
   shopt -s extglob

Another way to remove leading zeroes from a number in bash is to treat it as an integer, in a math context:

   # Bash
   # However, this fails if x contains anything other than digits.

If you need to remove leading zeroes in a POSIX shell, you can use a loop:

   # POSIX
   while true; do
     case "$var" in
       0*) var=${var#0};;
       *)  break;;

Or this trick (covered in more detail in FAQ #100):

   # POSIX

There are many, many other ways to do this, using sed for instance:

   # POSIX, suppress the trailing and leading whitespace on every line
   x=$(echo "$x" | sed -e 's/^[[:space:]]*//' -e 's/[[:space:]]*$//')

Solutions based on external programs like sed are better suited to trimming large files, rather than shell variables.

2012-07-01 04:05