program 2> error.log 
program &> filename 
program >> filename 2>&1
program 2>&1

I was able to figure out what these lines mean.

However I don't quite understand where I should put the spaces. I also worry that it actually doesn't matter where to put spaces. Thanks for reading.

  • 3
    what are you asking here actually? Could you formulate... you know, a question? ;)
    – Zanna
    Dec 5 '17 at 9:21
  • What does the second line do? I haven't seen this syntax before. Dec 5 '17 at 9:47
  • 3
    @StefanHamcke, See also this link, askubuntu.com/questions/958967/… ; The token &> can be used to redirect both the standard error and standard output. It can be used in bash, but may not be available in other shells.
    – sudodus
    Dec 5 '17 at 9:54
  • Sorry, my original question was not clear as a question. Fortunately askubuntu.com changed it with right grammar and phrase. I'll try to be better next time.
    – Smile
    Dec 5 '17 at 11:16

Yes, spacing between words and redirections doesn't matter. That's the short answer.

The details lie in the fact that shell ( for simplicity let's just refer to bash only) treates certain characters and groups of characters as "words" and "metacharacters". From bash 4.3 manual:


A character that, when unquoted, separates words. One of the following:

|  & ; ( ) < > space tab


word A sequence of characters considered as a single unit by the shell. Also known as a token.

So when we do:

$ echo "hello world">/dev/null


$ echo "hello world" > /dev/null

that's still 3 words ("hello world" can be considered a single shell word because it's quoted), with one > meta character and couple spaces. Shell will see it, and perform redirection first (so it looks for meta characters first), and then runs commands in accordance with its standard behavior.

Order of redirections, however, matters a lot, especially when you're duplicating file descriptors with something like 2>&1. Say you want to get send both stderr and stdin to same location. Here's a wrong way to do it:

$ stat ./non-existent file 2>&1  > /dev/null
stat: cannot stat './non-existent': No such file or directory
stat: cannot stat 'file': No such file or directory

You're making file descriptor 2 output to same location as 1, which is your terminal, but it was already doing so. That's why stderr shows up.

If you redirect stdout first, and only then change where 2 points - then it'll work:

$ stat ./non-existent file > /dev/null 2>&1 
  • Thanks for the detailed and practical answer. I feel like I'll never be proficient with redirection. When can I achieve your level, Zanna??
    – Smile
    Dec 5 '17 at 11:28
  • 4
    Will "echo foo2>bar" be interpreted as "echo foo 2>bar" or "echo foo2 >bar" Dec 5 '17 at 14:51
  • @Smile I only made a tiny edit to the grammar of this question. Sergiy is the author and the knowledgeable one!
    – Zanna
    Dec 5 '17 at 15:08
  • 1
    @PeterGreen It will be echo foo2 > bar.
    – wjandrea
    Dec 5 '17 at 16:54
  • 2
    @PeterGreen good question ! It will be interpreted as echo foo2 >bar because if we split the command into separate tokens using space and > as metacharacters, it will be 3 words: echo, foo2, and bar. Only when filedescriptor number appears by itself on the line, then it's considered as separate item, otherwise it's part of another word. Dec 5 '17 at 17:42

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