I'm thinking about creating a bash script where multiple options can be specified and at the end define the variables according to the chosen options or execute certain orders when receiving the different options. An example is worth more than a thousand words:

[X] Copy only (1) - Options typed by the user
[ ] Move only (2)
[X] Checksum  (3) - Options typed by the user
[ ] Reset permission (4)
[ ] Exit (5)

Select choice:

I have found some options but I do not know how to make them do a certain function because I do not understand how the code works.


Code functional:


#Contributing code by Sergiy Kolodyazhnyy and adaptation for MarianoM.

resize -s 40 90 > /dev/null #Change window size.

option=$(dialog --clear --backtitle "Synchronization..." --title "Synchronize" \
    --checklist "Select the synchronization options:"  20 50 10 \
       checksum "Compare the content" off \
       detail "Show more information" off \
       directory "Synchronize folders" on \
       recursive "Include subfolders" off 2>&1 > /dev/tty)

for i in $option; do #Set parameter of the menu options.
       case $i in
         checksum) c="-c" ;;
         detail) v="-v" ;;
         directory) d="-d" ;;
         recursive) r="-r" ;;

if [ -z $option ]; then #Check if the variable is empty. If it is empty, it means that the user has not chosen an option.
 echo "Error: No option has been selected or dialog not installed. The program can not continue."
   source=$(dialog --clear --backtitle "Please select source..." --title "Source:" --fselect "" 20 50 2>&1 > /dev/tty)
     if [ -z $source ]; then
       echo "Error program. Source not selected, try again!"
 destination=$(dialog --clear --backtitle "Please select destination..." --title "Destination:" --fselect "" 20 50 2>&1 > /dev/tty)
     if [ -z $destination ]; then
       echo "Error program. Destination not selected, try again!"
 rsync  "$c" "$v" "$d" "$r" "$source" "$destination"
  • @Sergiy Kolodyazhnyy Thank you anyway. I already found what I was looking for here: serverfault.com/a/506704/500213
    – MarianoM
    Jan 4, 2019 at 3:37
  • I've reopened the question. The linked post and what you've provided both use select statement, so in such regard it's duplicate. However since you want to provide multiple options at the same time, it's not quite a duplicate. What can be done, however, is to allow select statement to loop through multiple options and execute each one after the other. I would also caution against providing multiple options at the same time, since if you try to provide options like 2,1,3 - well the file will be moved, and next two options will fail due to missing file. Jan 4, 2019 at 4:01
  • @Sergiy Kolodyazhnyy Thanks for reopening, I will delete the comment about it. I still do not understand programming too much, that's why I published the way I came up with it. Obviously it is a bad idea and there are better solutions provided as the link that I have left. Although I still can not understand how they work and how to set variables according to the selected options.
    – MarianoM
    Jan 4, 2019 at 4:08
  • 1
    You useage of bach variables is surprising. c=$(echo "-c") can be simply written c="-c". But your problem is that value variable: since you lump everything into one variable (that you quote to pass to rsync), rsync sees one single parameter string ("-c -v -d -r") that it cannot parse. Use the individual $c/$d/$v/$r variables directly in the rsync call.
    – xenoid
    Jan 7, 2019 at 13:38
  • 1
    Printing doesn't tell everything: "a b"` and "a b" print the same but are different, one is one single value, the other is two. Try for x in "a b";do echo $x;done v.s. for x in "a" "b";do echo $x;done.
    – xenoid
    Jan 7, 2019 at 13:48

1 Answer 1


From the discussion in the comments it is apparent that your main concern is to create as script with multiple selections, rather than focus on copying/moving files themselves, and the file operations are just an example. This functionality can be achieved via dialog command, which allows creating text user interfaces, with --checklist flag specifically; however there's nothing in the standard shell-only toolbox to achieve what you want. Hence, dialog is an appropriate tool for this job.

Below you will find an example script. While the script implements only 3 options that were discussed, it provides a decent starting point which users can extent further, and also addresses mutually exclusive options as mentioned in the comments. Particularly, the multiple selection is addressed in menu() function, which serves as a wrapper for dialog with --checklist option

To keep things simple, all you really need is this:

output=$(dialog --clear --backtitle "Backtitle. Use <SPACE> to select." --title "My Dialog" \
       --checklist "Select all that apply"  50 50 100 \
       checksum "SHA-256" off \
       copy "Copy only (exclusive with move)" off \
       move "Move only (exclusive with copy)" off 2>&1 > /dev/tty)

This saves the selection of multiple items to variable $output. Note that `2>&1 > /dev/tty) at the end are crucial to saving the return value into variable. But see the script below for more practical example:


    # function to exit with specific error message
    # analogous to 'die' in Perl
    printf ">>> Errors were encountered: %s\n" "$1" && exit
} > /dev/stderr

    # dialog --help documents the option as follows:
    # --checklist    <text> <height> <width> <list height> <tag1> <item1> <status1>...
    # tags are what the output returns.
    # We can use word-splitting 
    # and iterate over output of this function in order. Of course first option
    # being checksum will always work and is not mutually exclusive with anything else
    dialog --clear --backtitle "Backtitle. Use <SPACE> to select." --title "My Dialog" \
           --checklist "Select all that apply"  50 50 100 \
           checksum "SHA-256" off \
           copy "Copy only (exclusive with move)" off \
           move "Move only (exclusive with copy)" off || puke

} 2>&1 1>/dev/tty

    dialog --backtitle "Choose file by typing or navigating and selecting with <SPACE>" --fselect "/etc/" \
           20 50  || puke
} 2>&1 1>/dev/tty

    # variables are available to child functions
    # Since we call iter_actions in main(), this
    # function also knows about main's variable $fselect

    for i ; do 
       case "$i" in
           checksum) sha256sum "$fselect" ;;
           copy) cp "$fselect" /tmp ;;
           move) mv "$fselect" /tmp ;;

    # here I'm using /etc but you can use $PWD to default to user's 
    # current working directory, or accept positional parameters from command-line
    # as in $1, $2 and so forth
    fselect=$( select_file "/etc" )
    printf "\r%b" "\033c" # this clear the screen

    case "$actions" in
       *copy*move|*move*copy) puke "Mutually exclusive options selected" ;;
        *) iter_actions $actions ;; # note here variable is unquoted on purpose

# script entry point
main "$@"

For further research:

  • 2
    +1. dialog is a good tool, that works well in text screens as well as in terminal windows, and it looks good, even if it is a text mode tool. It is also a good idea to let functions do the job, and have a small main program :-)
    – sudodus
    Jan 4, 2019 at 9:13
  • Thank you very much Sergiy! There are still parts of his code that I have not been able to understand, and I will continue investigating it. I do not have too advanced knowledge in programming, but I know something and I want to learn. I have updated the question with the code that I have managed to understand and I have managed to make it functional. But it still presents a problem, in the question it says what it is about.
    – MarianoM
    Jan 7, 2019 at 13:28
  • I would like it if possible, also recommend me what to improve the code.
    – MarianoM
    Jan 7, 2019 at 13:30
  • Thanks for everything @Sergiy Kolodyazhnyy. Finally I managed to make it functional after some recommendations from another user.
    – MarianoM
    Jan 7, 2019 at 17:32

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