ECHO(P) POSIX Programmer's Manual ECHO(P)
echo - write arguments to standard output
echo [string ...]
The echo utility writes its arguments to standard output, followed by a <newline>. If
there are no arguments, only the <newline> is written.
The echo utility shall not recognize the "--" argument in the manner specified by Guide-
line 10 of the Base Definitions volume of IEEE Std 1003.1-2001, Section 12.2, Utility Syn-
tax Guidelines; "--" shall be recognized as a string operand.
Implementations shall not support any options.
The following operands shall be supported:
string A string to be written to standard output. If the first operand is -n, or if any of
the operands contain a backslash ( '\' ) character, the results are implementation-
On XSI-conformant systems, if the first operand is -n, it shall be treated as a string,
not an option. The following character sequences shall be recognized on XSI-conformant
systems within any of the arguments:
Write an <alert>.
Write a <backspace>.
Suppress the <newline> that otherwise follows the final argument in the output. All
characters following the '\c' in the arguments shall be ignored.
Write a <form-feed>.
Write a <newline>.
Write a <carriage-return>.
Write a <tab>.
Write a <vertical-tab>.
Write a backslash character.
Write an 8-bit value that is the zero, one, two, or three-digit octal number num.
The following environment variables shall affect the execution of echo:
LANG Provide a default value for the internationalization variables that are unset or
null. (See the Base Definitions volume of IEEE Std 1003.1-2001, Section 8.2, Inter-
nationalization Variables for the precedence of internationalization variables used
to determine the values of locale categories.)
LC_ALL If set to a non-empty string value, override the values of all the other interna-
Determine the locale for the interpretation of sequences of bytes of text data as
characters (for example, single-byte as opposed to multi-byte characters in argu-
Determine the locale that should be used to affect the format and contents of diag-
nostic messages written to standard error.
Determine the location of message catalogs for the processing of LC_MESSAGES .
The echo utility arguments shall be separated by single <space>s and a <newline> shall
follow the last argument. Output transformations shall occur based on the escape
sequences in the input. See the OPERANDS section.
The standard error shall be used only for diagnostic messages.
The following exit values shall be returned:
0 Successful completion.
>0 An error occurred.
CONSEQUENCES OF ERRORS
The following sections are informative.
It is not possible to use echo portably across all POSIX systems unless both -n (as the
first argument) and escape sequences are omitted.
The printf utility can be used portably to emulate any of the traditional behaviors of the
echo utility as follows (assuming that IFS has its standard value or is unset):
* The historic System V echo and the requirements on XSI implementations in this volume
of IEEE Std 1003.1-2001 are equivalent to:
printf "%b\n" "$*"
* The BSD echo is equivalent to:
if [ "X$1" = "X-n" ]
printf "%s" "$*"
printf "%s\n" "$*"
New applications are encouraged to use printf instead of echo.
The echo utility has not been made obsolescent because of its extremely widespread use in
historical applications. Conforming applications that wish to do prompting without <new-
line>s or that could possibly be expecting to echo a -n, should use the printf utility
derived from the Ninth Edition system.
As specified, echo writes its arguments in the simplest of ways. The two different his-
torical versions of echo vary in fatally incompatible ways.
The BSD echo checks the first argument for the string -n which causes it to suppress the
<newline> that would otherwise follow the final argument in the output.
The System V echo does not support any options, but allows escape sequences within its op-
erands, as described for XSI implementations in the OPERANDS section.
The echo utility does not support Utility Syntax Guideline 10 because historical applica-
tions depend on echo to echo all of its arguments, except for the -n option in the BSD
Portions of this text are reprinted and reproduced in electronic form from IEEE Std
1003.1, 2003 Edition, Standard for Information Technology -- Portable Operating System
Interface (POSIX), The Open Group Base Specifications Issue 6, Copyright (C) 2001-2003 by
the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc and The Open Group. In the
event of any discrepancy between this version and the original IEEE and The Open Group
Standard, the original IEEE and The Open Group Standard is the referee document. The orig-
inal Standard can be obtained online at http://www.opengroup.org/unix/online.html .
IEEE/The Open Group 2003 ECHO(P)