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At the command line, environment variables are defined for the current shell and are inherited by any running command or process. They can determine everything from the default shell, the PATH, the users home directory, to the terminal emulation type, current working directory, where a history file resides, language and localization settings, and moving on to include shell variables, which include everything from customizations to the bash prompt, colored ls exports and changes to terminal appearance, aliases and much more.
Let’s move on how to list environment and shell variables, and then how to set and add new environment variables from Mac OS X command line.
View current environment and shell variables in Mac OS X
Too fast get a list of environment variables, you can use the following command:
If you have a full list of shell variablesthe ‘set’ command can also be given:
The output of these commands can be long, so you may want to route the output through fewer or more commands.
Set environment variables in the Mac OS X command line
Since the Mac uses bash shell by default, you can set environment variables in the user folders .bash_profile, for an active user account the path to that file can be found at:
~ / .bash_profile
If you have changed your shell or are unsure which shell you are using, you can always check this by issuing the echo $ SHELL command, which will show which shell is in use. We’re assuming you’re still using OS X’s default bash shell, so we’ll add new environment variables by modifying .bash_profile with nano – you can use vi, emacs, or any other text editor if you’d like, but we’ll add nano treat for its simplicity.
Start by opening .bash_profile in the nano text editor:
You can add environment variables and shell variables on newlines, if there is already data in the .bash_profile file, make sure to add new variables to a new empty line using the arrow keys and the Return key if needed .
Let’s take an example and say we’re going to set the environment variables JAVA_HOME and JRE_HOME in .bash_profile by adding the following to newlines of the file:
export JAVA_HOME = $ (/ usr / libexec / java_home) export JRE_HOME = $ (/ usr / libexec / java_home)
Assuming we’re done now, save the changes made to .bash_profile by pressing Control + o (that’s an o like in otter), then exit nano by pressing Control + X
Changes and additions to environment variables require a shell reboot or a new shell shutdown.
Set temporary environment variables in OS X
It’s worth noting that you can also set temporary environment variables in bash by using the ‘export’ command yourself, although these will only persist as long as the current bash shell remains active. For example, if you want to add a work path to ~ / bin / you can use the following command:
export PATH = $ PATH: ~ / bin
Again, the ‘export’ command run by itself and not included in .bash_profile will be just a temporary setting and the environment variable will not persist unless you add it to the .bash_profile.
If you’re really looking to add a new PATH for use, you should almost certainly add it to .bash_profile by putting the appropriate export command in the file.
Going beyond bash shell, if you’ve changed your Terminal app’s default shell from bash to tcsh, zsh, sh, ksh, fish or any of the other alternate shells out there, all you need to do is get the right profile or rc file for that particular shell (.tschrc, .cshrc, .profile, etc.).
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