The only thing worse than shell scripting is doing without shell scripting. Half a century on and we are still not great at bespoke automation of tasks. Unix-esque shell scripting is one passable methods for automation of some tasks, and the least awful for many, so you’d better learn it, or hire a personal assistant. Except the problem is that shell scripting is a ghastly quagmire of chaos, and, as usual, for the traditional variety of path-dependent reasons, the dominant players in the market have especially high chaos content in their quagmire.
“Shell” as I will lazily use it here may conflate several things, a scripting language, and a protocol for interacting with the system and displaying things on the screen (the “terminal”.) These all interact in complicated ways, especially on a modern system, but I’m going to brush over this nicety, because who gives a shit? [#]
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Your list of horrible alternatives
bash is the default for most humans who must sojourn in this grim dale of automation. It has the virtues of having decades of careful crafting, and of ubiquity, and the vice of having decades of bitrot, accommodation to ill-considered primordial design choices, and of occasionally uploading all your personal data to online gangsters.
fish has a strong fanbase and principled design, and may or may not be awesome; I would not know, because it is not bash, so I am afraid that learning it is procrastination. If nothing else, it has a healthy degree of sarcasm in its documentation (“Finally, a command line shell for the 90s!”) That sarcasm is sorely absent from the drearily earnest nerdview of your typical gnu.org project.
pro tip: You will need virtualfish to replace python’s virtualenvwrapper.sh.
pro tip: the command to get the web-based GUI is fish_config.
pro tip: ubuntu users can get an updated fish PPA.
update I’m gradually transitioning to fish, after accidentally losing a lot of precious data due to a quirk in bash syntax. Long boring story. It’s time for different stupid errors, though.
dash is a less bloated bash clone, which by itself doesn’t seem advantage enough to sell it widely.
Plumbum brings a shell “feel” to python, and looks passionately maintained if not broadly used.
xonsh uses a hybrid of python and bash syntax and has light dependencies plus the python standard library, as well as some light mockery of the design choices in plumbum.
rush is here and there, too. Some kind of ruby-backed shell? I don’t know, my mind is wandering, Dave. Would you like me to sing you a song?
- And now windows has bash too, and no one is safe
There are many, many others, most of which only last a year or two before their maintainers resign and use bash. You too can roll your own vanity shell!
Idea: create shells cash, trash, theclash, and bangersandmash.
chsh -s `which fish` myusername
fzf adds general fuzzy history search.
Realistically you’re using bash; now what?
Try out some non-trivial commands.