Invoking utilities

There are a number of general guidelines to follow when running utilities:

  • An option may be followed by another option after a single dash (-) on the command line as long as each preceding option doesn't have an option argument. For example, the option string -abc is equivalent to -a -b -c. However, if -a accepts an option argument, then -abc would be equivalent to -a bc instead.
  • Options and their option arguments should be specified with spacing as shown in their documentation. If the documentation says:
    -n number

    the number should be a separate command-line argument from the -n. But if the documentation refers to:


    then number should appear in the same argument as -n without any intervening blanks. Utilities in QNX and in POSIX-conforming systems permit both forms in all utilities unless otherwise stated, but you'll achieve the greatest portability by using the preferred form. This is particularly important when developing scripts that may be used on multiple (QNX and non-QNX) platforms.

  • Options are usually listed in alphabetical order, but there's no restriction on the order that they may appear in the command line when used, unless otherwise indicated in the documentation for the utility. Note that in some utilities, mutually exclusive options override each other in a last one wins manner.
  • All options and associated option arguments must precede any operands on the command line. For example, if you want to run the cp utility with the -R option, you may enter:
    cp -R dir1 dir2

    but not:

    cp dir1 dir2 -R
  • Decimal integers are accepted when numeric values are required in operands and option arguments, unless otherwise specified. Some utilities may support 0 octal and 0x hex numbers as well without being documented as doing so. For this reason, don't precede decimal numbers with leading zeros.
  • Integer numerical operands and option arguments must be in the range 0 to 2147483647 unless otherwise specified. If negative numbers are accepted, the acceptable range is -2147483647 to 2147483647.
  • The argument -- (dash dash) may be placed on the command line as a delimiter indicating the end of options and the start of operands. This is particularly useful when the operands themselves might start with a dash. For example, to remove a file named -t , you would use:
    rm -- -t

    Utilities that don't accept any options also accept and discard a -- before their operands, unless otherwise indicated.

  • Most utilities that accept filenames as operands (and sometimes as option arguments) accept the filename - to mean standard input, or, when unambiguous from its context, standard output.