Does anyone know how to write a shell script to install a list of applications? It's a pain to have to install each application by hand every time I set up a new system.

Edit: It still asks me Do you want to continue [Y/n]?. Is there a way to have the script input y or for it not to prompt for input?


5 Answers 5


I would assume the script would look something like this:

apt-get update  # To get the latest package lists
apt-get install <package name> -y

Just save that as something like install_my_apps.sh, change the file's properties to make it executable, and run it from the command line as root.

(Edit: The -y tells apt-get not to prompt you and just get on with installing)

  • 1
    How to make it executable? I assume i would run it like: sudo ./install_my_apps.sh
    – jumpnett
    Jul 30, 2010 at 19:22
  • I'm not certain whether it's necessary to make it executable (I'm a Python guy; not much into BASH). But if you must, it can be made executable with chmod +x ./install_my_apps.sh. Jul 30, 2010 at 19:40
  • Or right click on it, select "Properties". In the window that opens go to the "Permissions" tab, and check the checkbox that says "Allow executing file as a program"
    – jfoucher
    Jul 30, 2010 at 20:08
  • 8
    I don't know why this is CW, but I edited it anyway to put the -y flag. Note: If you want to make it look clearer, you can use --yes or --assume-yes in place of -y.
    – Umang
    Aug 1, 2010 at 5:20

Well, according to your question the easiest script would be:

LIST_OF_APPS="a b c d e"

aptitude update
aptitude install -y $LIST_OF_APPS

However you could also enter aptitude update && aptitude install -y a b c d e. So maybe your question is missing the crucial point here. If there are some further requirements it would be nice to explain them.

  • 2
    Note that apt-get would work as a drop-in replacement for aptitude here, if that is your preference. Simply replace both instances of "aptitude" with "apt-get". Jul 30, 2010 at 18:50
  • Personally I would go with aptitude as it will look for / install dependencies much better than apt
    – vishless
    Dec 24, 2023 at 5:35

Just create a list of apps in a file, example.list, and run

cat example.list | xargs sudo apt-get -y install
  • this is awesome. never knew how to feed a list of packages into apt before!
    – Thufir
    Aug 18, 2017 at 7:34
  • xargs feeds the piped lines into any command, by simply appending them as arguments
    – xeruf
    May 11, 2018 at 20:42

set -eu -o pipefail # fail on error and report it, debug all lines

sudo -n true
test $? -eq 0 || exit 1 "you should have sudo privilege to run this script"

echo installing the must-have pre-requisites
while read -r p ; do sudo apt-get install -y $p ; done < <(cat << "EOF"
    zip unzip

echo installing the nice-to-have pre-requisites
echo you have 5 seconds to proceed ...
echo or
echo hit Ctrl+C to quit
echo -e "\n"
sleep 6

sudo apt-get install -y tig


  • set -eu -o pipefail command:

    Command elements Explanation
    set Modify how the shell environment operates
    -u If a variable does not exist, report the error and stop (e.g., unbound variable)
    -e Terminate whenever an error occurs (e.g., command not found)
    -o pipefail If a sub-command fails, the entire pipeline command fails, terminating the script (e.g., command not found)

    If this script encounters any errors, it will fail and exit.

    Ref: https://www.tutorialdocs.com/article/set-command-in-bash.html

  • sudo -n true command:

    Command elements Explanation
    sudo Run as superuser
    -n Non-interactive. Prevents sudo from prompting for a password. If one is required, sudo displays an error message and exits
    true Builtin command that returns a successful (zero) exit status

    Run as a superuser and do not ask for a password. Exit status as successful.

    Ref: https://linux.die.net/man/8/sudo, https://linux.die.net/abs-guide/internal.html

  • test $? -eq 0 || exit 1 "you should have sudo privilege to run this script" command:

    Command elements Explanation
    test Takes an expression as an argument, evaluates it as '0' (true) or '1' (false), and returns the result to the bash variable $?
    $? A variable used to find the return value as the exit status of the last executed command
    -eq equals
    0 Value result is true
    || Logical "OR" is a Boolean operator. It can execute commands or shell functions based on the exit status of another command
    exit Exits the shell with a status of N. If N is unspecified, it uses the exit code of the last executed command
    1 Value result is false and used here as an argument to the exit command to use as an exit code
    "you should have sudo privilege to run this script" If the exit code is false, print this message to the terminal

    Test the last variable's exit code and see if it equals '0'. If not, exit with an error and print a given message to the terminal.

    Ref: https://linuxhint.com/bash-test-command/, http://tldp.org/LDP/abs/html/exit-status.html#EXSREF, https://bash.cyberciti.biz/guide/Logical_OR, https://linuxize.com/post/bash-exit/

  • echo installing the must-have pre-requisites command:

    Command elements Explanation
    echo Builtin command used to print information or messages to the terminal
    installing the must-have pre-requisites Message to print to the terminal

    Tell the user that it is going to install some pre-requisite packages before installing the actual program.

    Ref: https://linuxhint.com/bash_echo/

  • while read -r p ; command:

    Command elements Explanation
    while Create a while-loop, i.e. perform a given set of commands ad infinitum as long as the given condition evaluates to true
    read Read a line from the standard input and store it in a variable
    -r Option passed to read command that avoids the backslash escapes from being interpreted
    p Arbitrary variable for read to store captured input. Here it represents each package to be installed
    ; Control operator AND. Proceed to the next command and execute it regardless of the exit status of the previous command (execute even if the previous command fails)

    Read a given file line by line forever or until receiving a value of "false," then continue onto the proceeding command.

    Ref: https://linuxize.com/post/bash-while-loop/, http://linuxcommand.org/lc3_man_pages/readh.html, https://linuxhint.com/while_read_line_bash/, https://pubs.opengroup.org/onlinepubs/9699919799/utilities/V3_chap02.html#tag_18_09_04_09

  • do sudo apt-get install -y $p ; command:

    Command elements Explanation
    do Reserved word used to delimit the sequence of commands which follow. i.e., start
    apt-get Tool used by the Debian APT (Advanced Package Tool) package manager
    install A command used to install packages
    -y Long-form is --yes. assume "yes" on all query prompts
    $p Used to call the arbitrary variable p from read and use it as standard input

    Install the list of packages as a superuser without prompting for confirmation to install.

    Ref: https://itsfoss.com/apt-get-linux-guide/

  • done < <(cat << "EOF" <list of packages> EOF) command:

    Command elements Explanation
    done Reserved word used to delimit the sequence of commands which precede. i.e., stop
    < Redirection to the standard input
    cat Concatenate. used for viewing, creating, and appending files
    << Redirection that reads input from the current source until encountering a delimiter and then using those lines as the standard input for a command
    EOF End of File delimiter
    cat << EOF-EOF This will read, then print everything enclosed within the EOF block
    <(list) Obtain the output of the list; parentheses indicate that the list will execute in a subshell environment

    Read the list of packages and gather them as standard input. Redirect it to the read command, which captures it as the p variable, and then sends it to the $p variable, which allows it to get executed by the install command, and when it reaches the EOF delimiter, redirect the output to done effectively ending the while read loop.

    Ref: https://linuxhint.com/cat-command-bash/, https://linuxhint.com/what-is-cat-eof-bash-script/

The following four echo messages are self-explanatory:

  • echo installing the nice-to-have pre-requisites
  • echo you have 5 seconds to proceed ...
  • echo or
  • echo hit Ctrl+C to quit

however, the next one is not.

  • echo -e "\n" command:

    Command elements Explanation
    -e Enable the function of backslash characters
    \n Backslash escaped sequence for new line

    This command creates a newline.

  • sleep 6 command:

    Command elements Explanation
    sleep Delay the execution of a bash script, typically for N seconds, unless using an option to indicate longer lengths of time

    Delay the execution of the following command for 6 seconds.

    Ref: https://linuxhandbook.com/bash-sleep/

  • sudo apt-get install -y tig command:

    Install the tig package with the Debian apt-get tool while running the installation as a superuser, and do not prompt for confirmation.

General references:

  • 1
    wow - a full bash tutorial out of one simple answer ;o) Oct 18, 2021 at 15:24

I would opt for the following script: vim install

apt-get update  # To get the latest package lists
apt-get install $1 -y

Then I should make the above script executable chmod +x install. Then to use it, I could type: ./install <package_name>. Example: ./install clang

  • 1
    I wanted all the programs listed in the file. With this method, I would still have to input the name of the program as a command line argument, so there really isn't a benefit.
    – jumpnett
    Sep 13, 2012 at 19:11
  • 1
    @jumpnett Lol, I missed the list point. I am starting to lack caffeine and it shows. Sorry for it. May update the answer. Sep 13, 2012 at 19:23
  • Plus it's going to run update for every program to install, time-consuming. And it needs sudo.
    – Gauthier
    Apr 24, 2015 at 10:50
  • this is extremely unneccessary. You might as well put alias install='sudo apt-get install -y' into your .bash_aliases
    – xeruf
    May 11, 2018 at 20:41

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