Maybe it's not that important, but I think it's worth a quick mention here on meta. Multi-line shell commands are annoying to deal with. Here's a blatant example:

find . -type f | \
while read -r filepath; \
do echo "$filepath"; \

This is a nice way to present a command, but at the same time it goes to the detriment of the command's usability. For example, try, when using it, to change something other than the last line without ending up copy-pasting each single line.

I think it would be nice if such commands would be posted along with an editable one-line version of them, for the ease of copy-paste-edit-run them directly.

  • 2
    Good idea! I'll use that from now on!!! Now you go edit all the answers on the site that contain such commands and add one-liners! ;-)
    – Fabby
    Commented Jul 6, 2015 at 20:50
  • @Fabby I'd rather not (~1569 posts!), but in case someone is willing to edit their own posts I'll provide a very rough query to find the offending ones ;) You have only one by the way! Congratulations!
    – kos
    Commented Jul 6, 2015 at 22:03
  • 1
    None now! :P ;-)
    – Fabby
    Commented Jul 6, 2015 at 22:12

2 Answers 2


I propose that we leave them as-is, and teach the users to avoid the insanity of editing complex commands directly in the shell. Bash, for one, allows us to edit the current command in an editor by pressing CtrlxCtrle (via the readline library).

  • 3
    Nice, I didn't know about this. Seconded
    – kos
    Commented Jul 7, 2015 at 13:32

There is also ESCV on some ksh (I think about HP-UX).

  • you must be in vi mode (set -o vi).

(edit in post because of format)

terminal is gnome-terminal, LTS 14.04.2

#stty -a
speed 38400 baud; rows 24; columns 80; line = 0;
intr = ^C; quit = ^\; erase = ^?; kill = ^U; eof = ^D; eol = M-^?; eol2 = M-^?;
swtch = M-^?; start = ^Q; stop = ^S; susp = ^Z; rprnt = ^R; werase = ^W;
lnext = ^V; flush = ^O; min = 1; time = 0;
-parenb -parodd cs8 hupcl -cstopb cread -clocal -crtscts
-ignbrk brkint -ignpar -parmrk -inpck -istrip -inlcr -igncr icrnl ixon -ixoff
-iuclc ixany imaxbel iutf8
opost -olcuc -ocrnl onlcr -onocr -onlret -ofill -ofdel nl0 cr0 tab0 bs0 vt0 ff0
isig icanon iexten echo echoe echok -echonl -noflsh -xcase -tostop -echoprt
echoctl echoke

what i did: enter a two line command

ls |
wc -l

run the command,

  • then ESCk, this recall the command in one line, with a ^J
  • then ESCv, this call

    • vi, with command on two lines (HP-UX),
    • nano with command on one line (Ubuntu).
  • Thanks for the suggestion, but I'm testing this in ksh and it's not working (at least in gnome-terminal). I think it's a feature of your terminal
    – kos
    Commented Jul 20, 2015 at 7:09
  • Nope, it's still not working. Which terminal are you on?
    – kos
    Commented Jul 20, 2015 at 7:24
  • Looks like a putty feature, which I can't test; Ctrl+K and Ctrl+K brings the second most recent command run (in gnome-terminal with ksh and vi set). Can you test this in gnome-terminal (or any other "local" terminal)?
    – kos
    Commented Jul 20, 2015 at 7:41
  • I confirm the Ubuntu/nano/set -o vi version 14.04.2
    – Archemar
    Commented Jul 20, 2015 at 7:52
  • Then apologize, it must be due to my current (Debian) environment. Gonna test this as soon as I get on an Ubuntu machine.
    – kos
    Commented Jul 20, 2015 at 7:54
  • vi mode, not vi more. Commented Jul 21, 2015 at 11:00
  • vi mode, not vi more. Commented Jul 21, 2015 at 11:01
  • @ErkinAlpGüney thank you, vi mode is more of vi !
    – Archemar
    Commented Jul 21, 2015 at 11:26

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .