Using Shellcheck is good for me

October 18, 2017

A few months ago I wrote an entry about my views on Shellcheck where I said that I found it too noisy to be interesting or useful to me. Well, you know what, I have to take that back. What happened is that as I've been writing various shell scripts since then, I've increasingly found myself reaching for Shellcheck as a quick syntax and code check that I could use without trying to run my script. Shellcheck is a great tool for this, and as a bonus it can suggest some simplifications and improvements.

(Perhaps there are other programs that can do the same sort of checking that shellcheck does, but if so I don't think I've run across them yet. The closest I know of is shfmt.)

Yes, Shellcheck is what you could call nitpicky (it's a linter, not just a code checker, so part of its job is making style judgments). But going along with it doesn't hurt (I've yet to find a situation where a warning was actively wrong) and it's easier to spot real problems if 'shellcheck <script>' is otherwise completely silent. I can live with the cost of sprinkling a bunch of quotes over the use of shell variables, and the result is more technically correct even if it's unlikely to ever make a practical difference.

In other words, using Shellcheck is good for me and my shell scripts even if it can be a bit annoying. Technically more correct is still 'more correct', and Shellcheck is right about the things it complains about regardless of what I think about it.

(With that said, I probably wouldn't bother using Shellcheck and fixing its complaints about unquoted shell variable usage if that was all it did. The key to its success here is that it adds value over and above its nit-picking; that extra value pushes me to use it, and using it pushes me to do the right thing by fixing my variable quoting to be completely correct.)

Written on 18 October 2017.
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Last modified: Wed Oct 18 23:55:25 2017
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