I'm looking for a way to make the following alias work for any file name.

alias dim='cd /home/jason/Documents; vim *the desired file*; cd'

I'm wondering if there is a way I could change this alias to make it so that I could type in any file name as such:

dim *the desired file*

And still get the same result. Basically is there a way to call whatever is typed after the alias name into the alias itself? Something like:

alias dim='cd /home/jason/Documents; vim <what is typed after alias>; cd'
  • // , What was the purpose of this? Jul 6, 2015 at 17:18

2 Answers 2


No, you can not do that using shell aliases. You need to use a function.

Here is a simple function to do the job :

dim() {
cd /home/jason/Documents
vim "$1"

The function dim will take a file name as argument. You can put this code snippet at the end of your ~/.bashrc file and then run it as:

dim file.txt

Replace file.txt with any file name you want.

To run it from the current shell session, source the ~/.bashrc file first :

. ~/.bashrc
  • 3
    What does the "$1" signify? I'm a beginner and trying to learn rather than just copy paste and call it a day. Jul 5, 2015 at 2:30
  • 1
    @JasonBasanese I appreciate your decision :) $1 indicates the first positional parameter or argument to the function..think of it as a way of giving input to a function or script ..like all programming languages bash also uses this....you'll find numerous resources about this on Google..
    – heemayl
    Jul 5, 2015 at 2:34

Not with aliases, use functions instead.

From the Bash man page:


[...] There is no mechanism for using arguments in the replacement text. If arguments are needed, a shell function should be used (see FUNCTIONS below).

So your function could be:

function dim () { cd ~jason/Documents ; vim $* ; cd - ;}

  • 1
    Wouldn't ~/Documents work just fine in this case? Also what do the $ and * symbols mean in this case? and is the - after the cd needed? Usually I can just type cd and it goes up a directory. Jul 5, 2015 at 2:34
  • “Usually I can just type cd and it goes up a directory” – I only know a plain cd to bring you to your home directory; cd .. goes one level up. cd - brings you to the previous directory from which you cd’ed.
    – Chriki
    Jul 5, 2015 at 12:43
  • 1
    @JasonBasanese: Yes ~/Documents would work for everyone (if it is a function for all users). $* is like $1 $2 $3... just to give the whole list to vim, not the first argument you type. And as Chriki said, cd - will return to the previous directory (the one you were when you invoked the function). Jul 17, 2015 at 6:17

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