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Evaluator for common shell variable expressions

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Shellvars Homepage


Shellvars on PyPI


Shellvars Docs


MIT License


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A Python interpreter for shell variable expressions.

shellvars supports Python 2.6 and up, and should support Jython etc as well.

The following expressions are supported:

  • $NAME

  • ${NAME}









Recursive expressions are supported too. For instance:

>>> from shellvars import evaluate
>>> evaluate('${foo:-${bar:=baz}}', {})
('baz', {'bar': 'baz'})

For details on shell variable syntax, consult your shell or Posix documentation.


To evaluate an expression call evaluate with the expression and any variables you want available to the expression. Variables keys and values must both be strings. Variables that are missing from your variable dict are considered ‘unset’ in shell terms.

The return is an evaluated string and any variable assignments performed by the expression.

Preserving unset expressions

shellvars has a special mode where expressions that are for unset variables are preserved rather than evaluated. This permits passing them onto a real shell to interpret without needing special quoting from the user. For instance:

>>> from shellvars import SKIP
>>> evaluate('$foo $bar', {'foo': 'baz'}, absent=SKIP)
('baz $bar', {})


Use pip to install:

pip install shellvars


Install the test dependencies via pip:

pip install .[test]

Push up changes as PR’s to the GitHub repository.

Bug tracker

Use the GitHub issue tracker.


Use semver for version decisions.

To release:

  1. Tag the repo e.g. 1.2.3

  2. Build a signed sdist and wheel

  3. Upload to PyPI

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