How Debug Shell Bash

Shell Programming

Today, I want to share some insights on how to debug a shell bash script. As a developer, I have often found myself spending a considerable amount of time uncovering and fixing bugs in my shell scripts. Debugging in bash can be tricky, but with the right tools and techniques, it becomes a much more manageable task.

Setting Up Debugging

Before diving into the specifics of debugging, it’s important to ensure that your bash script is set up to provide the necessary debugging information. This can be achieved by adding the following line at the beginning of your script:

#!/bin/bash -x

This line tells bash to run in debug mode, providing a detailed trace of the script’s execution. It’s also worth noting that you can enable debugging for specific portions of your script by using the set -x and set +x commands to start and stop debugging at specific points.

Using Echo Statements

One of the simplest yet effective ways to debug a bash script is by using echo statements to print out the intermediate values of variables or the flow of the script. By strategically placing echo statements at crucial points in the script, you can gain valuable insights into the state of the script during execution.

Checking Exit Codes

Another important aspect of debugging bash scripts is to check the exit codes of commands or functions within the script. Using the special variable $? allows you to capture the exit code of the most recently executed command. This can be incredibly helpful in identifying the root cause of unexpected behavior in your script.

Using Shellcheck

As a developer, I find that using external tools can greatly improve the debugging process. One such tool that I highly recommend is ShellCheck. This tool analyzes shell scripts and provides valuable feedback on potential issues and best practices. It can catch common mistakes and offer suggestions for improvement, making it an invaluable asset in the debugging toolkit.

ShellCheck can be easily integrated into your development workflow, whether through the command line or as part of your CI/CD pipeline, ensuring that your shell scripts are thoroughly checked for errors and potential pitfalls.


Debugging shell bash scripts can be a challenging but rewarding process. With the right approach and tools at your disposal, you can effectively identify and resolve issues, leading to more robust and reliable scripts. By leveraging debugging techniques such as setting up debug mode, using echo statements, checking exit codes, and utilizing tools like ShellCheck, you can elevate the quality of your bash scripts and streamline the debugging process.