Unix Shell - The case...esac Statement


You can use multiple if...elif statements to perform a multiway branch. However, this is not always the best solution, especially when all of the branches depend on the value of a single variable.

Shell supports case...esac statement which handles exactly this situation, and it does so more efficiently than repeated if...elif statements.


The basic syntax of the case...esac statement is to give an expression to evaluate and to execute several different statements based on the value of the expression.

The interpreter checks each case against the value of the expression until a match is found. If nothing matches, a default condition will be used.

case word in
      Statement(s) to be executed if pattern1 matches
      Statement(s) to be executed if pattern2 matches
      Statement(s) to be executed if pattern3 matches

Here the string word is compared against every pattern until a match is found. The statement(s) following the matching pattern executes. If no matches are found, the case statement exits without performing any action.

There is no maximum number of patterns, but the minimum is one.

When statement(s) part executes, the command ;; indicates that the program flow should jump to the end of the entire case statement. This is similar to break in the C programming language.




case "$FRUIT" in
   "apple") echo "Apple pie is quite tasty." 
   "banana") echo "I like banana nut bread." 
   "kiwi") echo "New Zealand is famous for kiwi." 

Upon execution, you will receive the following result −

New Zealand is famous for kiwi.

A good use for a case statement is the evaluation of command line arguments as follows −


case ${option} in 
   -f) FILE="${2}" 
      echo "File name is $FILE"
   -d) DIR="${2}" 
      echo "Dir name is $DIR"
      echo "`basename ${0}`:usage: [-f file] | [-d directory]" 
      exit 1 # Command to come out of the program with status 1

Here is a sample run of the above program −

test.sh: usage: [ -f filename ] | [ -d directory ]
$ ./test.sh -f index.htm
$ vi test.sh
$ ./test.sh -f index.htm
File name is index.htm
$ ./test.sh -d unix
Dir name is unix