This is part nineteen and a half of a series on how to approach bash programming in a way that’s safer and more structured than your basic script.

See part 1 if you want to catch the series from the start.

Last time, we disabled word splitting. This time, let’s disable path expansion.

Path Expansion

An implication to using unquoted expansions I mentioned in the last post has to do with path expansion, or globbing.

If you followed the standard practice of quoting all of your expansions, you were also getting protection from this automatic shell feature as well.

After expansions and word splitting, bash looks for glob expressions and matches them to files and directories in the current directory, substituting any results it finds.

That means if you have a value which contains *, ? or [chars], then it will be checked against the filesystem and possibly changed.

For example, this echos “helloa”, not “hello?”:

touch helloa
echo $myvar

Inspecting the variable with declare -p myvar shows that it indeed has the question mark in it. It’s the echo command which performs the path expansion.

Mostly I don’t concern myself with this, since the odds are typically very low that a value I care about also happens to expand to a path.

However, be aware that it happens. Without going further into detail, I’ll simply recommend that you disable path expansion in your scripts using set -o noglob and only enable it when you need it.


One interesting option this opens up is the ability to use glob punctuation in function names, namely the question mark.


One of the affectations of ruby as a language is to make use of the question mark in method names. Ruby uses them as a convention (not an operator) to simply signify the return type of the method as a boolean (or “truthy” object).

While I won’t be borrowing much from ruby in this series, this is one thing I’ve always found visually useful for comprehension in code. A pithy function name ending with a question mark can well replace a longer and more expository name without one.

For this reason, you’ll see me using question marks in some function names. For example, our sourced function will now become sourced?.

I won’t bother relisting support.bash for such a small change, but I will note that method names which include a trailing question mark require the space between the function name and the parentheses in the function definition.

Updated Outline

Given all of this, here’s the updated version of our basic script outline:

#!/usr/bin/env bash

set -o noglob

source $(dirname $(readlink -f $BASH_SOURCE))/../lib/support.bash

main () {

hello_world () {
  echo "hello, world!"

sourced? && return
strict_mode on

main $@

Notice the lack of need for quotation marks in the source and main invocations, and the question mark on sourced?.

Continue with part 20 - scoping