I'm new to Ubuntu. I'm running 13.10 Desktop.

I wanted to set some system wide aliases and a custom prompt for bash. I found this article:


Following the advice in this article, I created /etc/profile.d/profile_local.sh. It is owned by root and has permissions of 644 just like the other scripts there:

root@ubuntu:/etc/profile.d# ll
total 28
drwxr-xr-x   2 root root  4096 Mar 23 08:56 .
drwxr-xr-x 135 root root 12288 Mar 23 09:15 ..
-rw-r--r--   1 root root   660 Oct 23  2012 bash_completion.sh
-rw-r--r--   1 root root  3317 Mar 23 07:36 profile_local.sh
-rw-r--r--   1 root root  1947 Nov 23 00:57 vte.sh

I have further confirmed that /etc/profile calls /etc/profile.d. It contains this code block:

if [ -d /etc/profile.d ]; then
  for i in /etc/profile.d/*.sh; do
    if [ -r $i ]; then
      . $i
  unset i

Upon login, it does not appear that the custom script, profile_local.sh I created gets sourced. However if after login I 'source /etc.profile.d/profile_local.sh', I get the expected behavior, my custom aliases, and custom prompt.

What am I doing wrong?

Contents of script 'profile_local.sh':

# 3/23/14 - Copied from Gentoo /etc/bash/bashrc
# Placed in /etc/profile.d as described at:
# https://help.ubuntu.com/community/EnvironmentVariables

# This file is sourced by all *interactive* bash shells on startup,
# including some apparently interactive shells such as scp and rcp
# that can't tolerate any output.  So make sure this doesn't display
# anything or bad things will happen !

# Test for an interactive shell.  There is no need to set anything
# past this point for scp and rcp, and it's important to refrain from
# outputting anything in those cases.
if [[ $- != *i* ]] ; then
        # Shell is non-interactive.  Be done now!

# Bash won't get SIGWINCH if another process is in the foreground.
# Enable checkwinsize so that bash will check the terminal size when
# it regains control.  #65623
# http://cnswww.cns.cwru.edu/~chet/bash/FAQ (E11)
shopt -s checkwinsize

# Enable history appending instead of overwriting.  #139609
shopt -s histappend

# Change the window title of X terminals 
case ${TERM} in
                PROMPT_COMMAND='echo -ne "\033]0;${USER}@${HOSTNAME%%.*}:${PWD/#$HOME/~}\007"'
                PROMPT_COMMAND='echo -ne "\033_${USER}@${HOSTNAME%%.*}:${PWD/#$HOME/~}\033\\"'


# Set colorful PS1 only on colorful terminals.
# dircolors --print-database uses its own built-in database
# instead of using /etc/DIR_COLORS.  Try to use the external file
# first to take advantage of user additions.  Use internal bash
# globbing instead of external grep binary.
safe_term=${TERM//[^[:alnum:]]/?}   # sanitize TERM
[[ -f ~/.dir_colors   ]] && match_lhs="${match_lhs}$(<~/.dir_colors)"
[[ -f /etc/DIR_COLORS ]] && match_lhs="${match_lhs}$(</etc/DIR_COLORS)"
[[ -z ${match_lhs}    ]] \
        && type -P dircolors >/dev/null \
        && match_lhs=$(dircolors --print-database)
[[ $'\n'${match_lhs} == *$'\n'"TERM "${safe_term}* ]] && use_color=true

if ${use_color} ; then
        # Enable colors for ls, etc.  Prefer ~/.dir_colors #64489
        if type -P dircolors >/dev/null ; then
                if [[ -f ~/.dir_colors ]] ; then
                        eval $(dircolors -b ~/.dir_colors)
                elif [[ -f /etc/DIR_COLORS ]] ; then
                        eval $(dircolors -b /etc/DIR_COLORS)

        if [[ ${EUID} == 0 ]] ; then
                PS1='\[\033[01;31m\]\h\[\033[01;34m\] \W \$\[\033[00m\] '
                PS1='\[\033[01;32m\]\u@\h\[\033[01;34m\] \w \$\[\033[00m\] '

        alias ls='ls --color=auto'
        alias grep='grep --colour=auto'
        if [[ ${EUID} == 0 ]] ; then
                # show root@ when we don't have colors
                PS1='\u@\h \W \$ '
                PS1='\u@\h \w \$ '

# Try to keep environment pollution down, EPA loves us.
unset use_color safe_term match_lhs


alias ll='ls -la'
alias dig='dig +search'
alias dir='ls -ba'

alias edit="ee"
alias ss="ps -aux"
alias dot='ls .[a-zA-Z0-9_]*'
alias news="xterm -g 80x45 -e trn -e -S1 -N &"

alias more="less"
alias c="clear"
alias m="more"
alias j="jobs"

# common misspellings
alias mroe=more
alias pdw=pwd
  • 1
    No, it's not executable but neither are the other two scripts. However I changed it and tried again. Still no luck.
    – Drew
    Mar 23, 2014 at 17:38
  • 3
    This has nothing to do with adding .sh, it is irrelevant and anyway the files in profile.d are sourced, not executed which is slightly different and does not require the file to be executable. The issue here is that profile &co are not read by non-login scripts.
    – terdon
    Mar 23, 2014 at 17:41
  • 1
    Drew, read my answer. The profile files are ignored by non-login shells but Ubuntu's default GUI login will read some of them. Just use .bashrc and all your problems will go away. There is also a question of precedence, if one of the files that are read subsequently also sets PS1, then the previous value will be discarded. Anyway, seriously, don't touch the filers in /etc, play with the ones in your home dir and use .bashrc not profile.
    – terdon
    Mar 23, 2014 at 17:46
  • 1
    Yes, that should be a login shell (that's the kind if thing you should include in your question next time). However, most systems have default .profile files in your home and the settings there will overwrite anything you do in /etc/profile. Basically never touch /etc unless you know what you're doing. That's what the user-specific files are for. Also, please edit your question and explain exactly how you are connecting, that changes everything.
    – terdon
    Mar 23, 2014 at 17:52
  • 5
    Please don't do this using /etc/profile.d that is a really bad idea and will affect all users of the system. Just include the commands from profile_local.sh in your ~/.profile or simply source the script by adding this line to your ~/.profile : . /path/to/profile_local.sh. (the . means source, it will read the file you give it and run the commands it finds there).
    – terdon
    Mar 23, 2014 at 17:57

5 Answers 5


To understand what's going on here, you need to understand a little background information about how shells (bash in this case) are run.

  • When you open a terminal emulator (gnome-terminal for example), you are executing what is known as an interactive, non-login shell.

  • When you log into your machine from the command line, via ssh, or run a command such as su - username, you are running an interactive login shell.

  • When you log in graphically, you are running something completely different, the details will depend on your system and graphical environment but in general it is the graphical shell that deals with your login. While many graphical shells (including the Ubuntu default) will read /etc/profile not all of them do.

  • Finally, when you run a shell script, it is run in a non-interactive, non-login shell.

Now, the files that bash will read when launched depend on the type of shell it is running as. The following is an excerpt of the INVOCATION section of man bash (emphasis mine):

When bash is invoked as an interactive login shell, or as a non-interactive shell with the --login option, it first reads and executes commands from the file /etc/profile, if that file exists. After reading that file, it looks for ~/.bash_profile, ~/.bash_login, and ~/.profile, in that order, and reads and executes commands from the first one that exists and is readable. The --noprofile option may be used when the shell is started to inhibit this behavior.

When an interactive shell that is not a login shell is started, bash reads and executes commands from /etc/bash.bashrc and ~/.bashrc, if these files exist. This may be inhibited by using the --norc option. The --rcfile file option will force bash to read and execute commands from file instead of /etc/bash.bashrc and ~/.bashrc.

What all this means is that you are editing the wrong file. You can test this by dropping to a virtual console using Ctrl+Alt+F2 (return to the GUI with Alt+F7, or F8 depending on your setup) and logging in there. You will see that your prompt and aliases are available.

So, in order to have the setting you want applied to non-login shells, the type you get each time you open a terminal, you should make your changes to ~/.bashrc instead. Alternatively, you can also place your aliases in the file ~/.bash_aliases (however, note that this is an Ubuntu feature and you should not expect it to work on other distributions).

For more details on which file should be used for what, see here.


  • Debian (and by extension Ubuntu) also has the default ~/.profile source ~/.bashrc. This means that any changes you make to ~/.bashrc will also be inherited by login shells but i) this is not the case in all Linux/Unix machines and ii) the inverse is not true which is why you should generally always work with ~/.bashrc &co rather than ~/.profile or /etc/profile.

  • Also, a general note on usage, changes made to the configuration files in /etc will affect all users. This is usually not what you want to do and should be avoided. You should always use the equivalent files in your home directory (~/).

  • The various configuration files are read sequentially. Specifically, for login shells, the order is:

    /etc/profile -> /etc/profile.d/* (in alphabetical order) -> ~/.bash_profile -> ~/.bash_login -> ~/.profile

    This means that any setting in ~/.profile will overwrite anything set in the previous files.

  • 3
    According to this post howtolamp.com/articles/…, you can also run echo $0 from a terminal and if the output is prefixed with a "-" then you are in a login shell. Mar 22, 2015 at 16:36
  • @stackoverflower not on my system. That works for a remote, interactive login shell. Doesn't seem to when running bash -l. In any case, why is that relevant? The question is not about how to check what type of shell you're running.
    – terdon
    Mar 22, 2015 at 16:40
  • magnificant post, wonder why it didn't show up on google when I had the same problem
    – Donato
    May 26, 2015 at 15:09
  • @stackoverflower If "$0" expands to something that starts with -, then you know you have a login shell. But the converse is not true: the absence of - doesn't ensure you're not in a login shell. Most common ways of starting login shells do give you a leading -, but not all. man bash tells us "A login shell is one whose first character of argument zero is a -, or one started with the --login option." (-l is the short form of --login; they're equivalent.) In Bash you can run shopt login_shell to check. Jul 25, 2017 at 21:11

in Debian for Terminal session I solved this problem for all user so:

added to

sudo nano /etc/bash.bashrc


if [ -d /etc/profile.d ]; then
  for i in /etc/profile.d/*.sh; do
    if [ -r $i ]; then
      . $i
  unset i


  • 1
    I think this should be the accepted answer
    – abd3lraouf
    Jan 14, 2020 at 7:42
  • 1
    from askubuntu.com/a/40313/236325 , seems a long standing bug on Ubuntu
    – Sérgio
    Jul 15, 2020 at 10:43
  • 1
    this is not a coincidence that there is a separation between bashrc and profile scripts. doing this, you alter the intended behavior....
    – kisp
    Sep 15, 2020 at 21:36
  • This is clever however it is another workaround forcing bash config files to source profile files, which is technically a loop (profile should be loaded first). If you are going to modify bash.bashrc you might as well just add your scripts directly to that file... unless you have a large amount of profile scripts you are sourcing? See here: askubuntu.com/a/103740/935172 Dec 18, 2020 at 13:04
  • 1
    @jgomo3 Yes - It will. To test this theory, I added "mkdir -p /test; sleep 1; touch /test/$(whoami)-$(date +"%s")" and any time I open a shell, interactive or not, two files will be created with on second separating them. Whether this is a bad thing or not I guess depends on what you have in your profile.d scripts and if they are idempotent or not.
    – TJ Biddle
    Oct 27, 2022 at 12:26

Follow this path:

  • Open Edit -> Preferences
  • In the first tab "General", under label "Command", enable "Run command as login shell"

Another possibility, especially for settings like the history settings HISTSIZE, HISTFILESIZE, HISTCONTROL, and PS1 is that the files are being loaded, but settings are overwritten in another file that is source later, with the most likely culprit being ~/.bashrc. (I have a default set of settings for our servers, like a prompt that is red for root to warn the user and large histories with timestamps)

The default Ubuntu .bashrc from /etc/skel sets several settings, which might have made sense to set from somewhere where it would not override settings set by the system owner from /etc/profile.d (Like /etc/bash.bashrc) (If a user edits their .bashrc, it is fine to overwrite settings, the system default files are more annoying)


VERSION="16.04.3 LTS (Xenial Xerus)"

Okay so everyone has assumed that the person here doesn't want /etc/profile.d/somefile.sh for all users, but in my case that's exactly what I wanted.

So actually as it turns out with Ubuntu if you use this and you want it to take effect in your graphical shell, all you have to do is set the file and then logout and back in again. All your consoles or anything you launch whether it be xterm type or console type (Or dropping to the shell) will now have that file sourced.

No need to use .bashrc etc for all users. Sorry this just wasn't clear in above answer. Everything they said is true but in reality its mostly not true as everything the windows manager launches will inherit these settings so just re-login and solve your issue and don't bother with .bashrc etc if your intention is to apply it to all users.

  • 3
    My problem is exactly that this does not happen in the terminal run under the graphical user interface; neither in Ubuntu 16.04.3 or 18.04. Oct 1, 2018 at 11:57

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .