Trap statement

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  • While running a script user may press Break or CTRL+C to terminate the process.
  • User can also stop the process by pressing CTRL+Z.
  • Error can occur do to bug in a shell script such as arithmetic overflow.
  • This may result into errors or unpredictable output.
  • Whenever user interrupts a signal is send to the command or the script.
  • Signals force the script to exit.
  • However, the trap command captures an interrupt.
  • The trap command provides the script to captures an interrupt (signal) and then clean it up within the script.


The syntax is as follows

trap arg signal
trap command signal
trap 'action' signal1 signal2 signalN
trap 'action' SIGINT 
trap 'action' 15 2 8 20


Create a shell script called

# capture an interrupt # 0
trap 'echo "Exit 0 signal detected..."' 0

# display something
echo "This is a test"

# exit shell script with 0 signal
exit 0

Save and close the file. Run it as follows:

chmod +x

Sample outputs:

This is a test
Exit 0 signal detected...
  • The first line sets a trap when script tries to exit with status 0.
  • Then script exits the shell with 0, which would result in running echo command.
  • Try the following example at a shell prompt (make sure /tmp/rap54ibs2sap.txt doesn't exits).
  • Define a shell variable called $file:

Now, try to remove $file, enter:

rm $file

Sample output:

rm: cannot remove `/tmp/rap54ibs2sap.txt': No such file or directory

Now sets a trap for rm command:

trap "rm $file; exit" 0 1 2 3 15

Display list of defined traps, enter:


Sample outputs:

trap -- 'rm /tmp/rap54ibs2sap.txt; exit' EXIT
trap -- 'rm /tmp/rap54ibs2sap.txt; exit' SIGHUP
trap -- 'rm /tmp/rap54ibs2sap.txt; exit' SIGINT
trap -- 'rm /tmp/rap54ibs2sap.txt; exit' SIGQUIT
trap -- 'rm /tmp/rap54ibs2sap.txt; exit' SIGTERM

Now, try again to remove the $file, enter:

rm $file

This time rm command did not displayed an error. The $file doesn't exist yet. The trap command simply exit whenever it get 0, 1, 2, 3, or 15 signal. Try capturing CTRL+C:

# capture an interrupt # 2 (SIGINT)
trap '' 2
# read CTRL+C from keyboard with 30 second timeout
read -t 30 -p  "I'm sleeping hit CTRL+C to exit..."

Sample outputs:

I'm sleeping hit CTRL+C to exit...^C^C^C^C
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