I'm trying to set up Apache Tomcat on my pc, and it wants me to set up an environment variable for CATALINA_HOME. Does any know how to do this?

8 Answers 8


In bash you can set variables like this:

export CATALINA_HOME=/opt/catalina

most other shells follow this convention, but not all. You can set it permanently in ~/.profile for bash (and as before, other shells have other locations)

  • 12
    for session-wide variables, help.ubuntu.com recommends ~/.profile as probably the best file for placing environment variable assignments in, since it gets executed automatically by the DisplayManager during the startup process desktop session as well as by the login shell when one logs-in from the textual console.
    – McDowell
    Aug 4, 2010 at 21:49
  • Updated the answer. The reason why i used .bashrc instead was that at some point .profile wasn't sourced automatically. But if it works now, it's better to use it.
    – Ressu
    Aug 5, 2010 at 5:07
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    Setting it in ~/.profile doesn't work for me. It works in ~/.bashrc though.
    – jumpnett
    Aug 7, 2010 at 0:56
  • 2
    Setting it in ~/.bash_profile works as well.
    – jumpnett
    Jan 31, 2013 at 0:45
  • 1
    It is to be noted that when you add new variables in ~/.bash_profile for instance, they won't be automatically set in the environment until your next login. See man bash, and look for INVOCATION for more details.
    – SR_
    Feb 26, 2018 at 9:38

To set permanent environment variables in latest Ubuntu versions (from 14.04 and above) add the variables to /etc/environment. For that follow the below instructions,

Open the terminal and run

sudo -H gedit /etc/environment

the provide your password, then in the prompted text file

then add the variables like


Sample of the /etc/environment is given below


don't forget to logout and login again to enable the environment variables.


Environment variables should already work

If you are using the tomcat6 package from the Ubuntu repositories, then the CATALINA_HOME and other environment variables are already set, in the /etc/init.d/tomcat6 startup script.

If you are installing tomcat outside the package manager (hopefully in /opt or somewhere else outside the managed file system), then running the TOMCAT/bin/startup.sh should use the relative location to define the CATALINA_HOME.

Setting the Environment variable

If for some reason you still need to set an environment variable you can open a terminal window and type in the command:

export CATALINA_HOME=/path/to/the/root/folder/of/tomcat

This environment variable will now work within that terminal window, but if you open another window or logout/login you loose that setting.

Make the environment variable permanent

To make the environment variable setting permanent, there are several places you can define the setting.

To be really sure the setting is being picked up, add the above setting to one of the startup script for tomcat:



Note: startup.sh calls the catalina.sh. You should add the setting at the start of one of these files (after any initial comments)

The standard way for global environment variables would be to add an entry in /etc/environment (you do not use the command export in this file as it is not a normal bash script)


Not recommended

You can set the environment variables in the bash (command line shell) configuration files, but these are not recommended as they are not always picked up (eg. if you are running a server that you dont login to to run tomcat): ~/.bashrc | ~/.profile | /etc.bash.bashrc | /etc/profile

  • 5
    It should not be the startup or catalina scripts, but the setenv.sh or setenv.bat script, creating it if needed: "Apart from CATALINA_HOME and CATALINA_BASE, all environment variables can be specified in the "setenv" script. The script is placed either into CATALINA_BASE/bin or into CATALINA_HOME/bin directory and is named setenv.bat (on Windows) or setenv.sh (on *nix). The file has to be readable." (Running The Apache Tomcat 7.0 Servlet/JSP Container, Section 3.4)
    – Olathe
    Oct 5, 2013 at 0:53

Open your Bash runcom file:

nano ~/.bashrc

This will most likely contain quite a bit of data already. Most of the definitions here are for setting bash options, which are unrelated to environmental variables. You can set environmental variables just like you would from the command line:

export VARNAME=value

See How To Read and Set Environmental and Shell Variables on Linux

I tested it on Ubuntu 16.04. Works great.


The best place for this depends on how and where you've installed Tomcat, what applications you want to pick up this setting and how global you want the scope to be.

The Ubuntu documentation on Environment Variables discusses the pros and cons of the various options.

  • What are you referring to when you say, "best place for this"?
    – jumpnett
    Aug 3, 2010 at 22:58
  • @jumpnett - I mean where to make the setting persistent so that it is always available to the applications depending on it. Unless you're happy typing the setting in every time or want to write your own script.
    – McDowell
    Aug 4, 2010 at 21:44

After going through Ubuntu Documentation on Environment Variables, I came up with following workaround:

##Save & run the following in a shell script,

export ENVIRON_VAR_NAME = Value
# any other initializations like
export PATH=$PWD:$PATH

The last line creates a child shell, which inherits Environment Variable values from parent shell (which have just been set).


As above, I will use the export to save an environment variable with a small difference. I prefer to save them in a local file.

echo "export POSTMARK_SERVER_TOKEN=sekritvalue" >> .env

In this way, anytime and from any terminal, your variable will work and be there with your project. Don't forget to include .env to your .gitignore, DO NOT push them to Git.


You can use systemd's environment.d:

As a user, you can drop a file in ~/.config/environment.d/foo.conf with VAR=value.

For all users, /etc/environment.d/foo.conf, or /etc/environment can be used.

You can also configure /etc/systemd/system/[email protected]/foo.conf for a specific user or /etc/systemd/system/[email protected]/foo.conf for all users. The contents f the file is then


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