How can I tell whether a variable contains a valid number?
First, you have to define what you mean by "number". The most common case when people ask this seems to be "a non-negative integer, with no leading + sign". Or in other words, a string of all digits. Other times, people want to validate a floating-point input, with optional sign and optional decimal point.
If you're validating a simple "string of digits", you can do it with a glob:
# Bash if [[ $foo = *[0-9]* ]]; then echo "'$foo' is strictly numeric" else echo "'$foo' has a non-digit somewhere in it" fi
The same thing can be done in Korn and POSIX shells as well, using case:
# POSIX case $var in *[!0-9]*|'') printf '%s has a non-digit somewhere in it\' "$var" ;; *) printf '%s is strictly numeric\n' "$var" esac >&2
If you need to allow a leading negative sign, or if want a valid floating-point number or something else more complex, then there are a few possible ways. Standard globs aren't expressive enough to do this, but we can use extended globs:
# Bash -- extended globs must be enabled explicitly in versions prior to 4.1. # Check whether the variable is all digits. shopt -s extglob [[ $var == +([0-9]) ]]
A more complex case:
# Bash / ksh shopt -s extglob if [[ $foo = @(*[0-9]*|!([+-]|)) && $foo = ?([+-])*([0-9])?(.*([0-9])) ]]; then echo 'foo is a floating-point number' fi
Optionally, case..esac may have been used in shells with extended pattern matching. The leading test of $foo is to ensure that it contains at least one digit, isn't empty, and contains more than just + or - by itself.
If your definition of "a valid number" is even more complex, or if you need a solution that works in legacy Bourne shells, you might prefer to use an external tool's regular expression syntax. Here is a portable version (explained in detail here), using egrep:
# Bourne if echo "$foo" | grep -qE '^[-+]?([0-9]+\.?|[0-9]*\.[0-9]+)$'; then echo "'$foo' is a number" else echo "'$foo' is not a number" fi
Bash version 3 and above have regular expression support in the [[ command.
# Bash # The regexp must be stored in a var and expanded for backward compatibility with versions < 3.2 regexp='^[-+]?[0-9]*(\.[0-9]*)?$' if [[ $foo = *[0-9]* && $foo =~ $regexp ]]; then echo "'$foo' looks rather like a number" else echo "'$foo' doesn't look particularly numeric to me" fi
Using the parsing done by [ and printf (or "using eq")
# fails with ksh if [ "$foo" -eq "$foo" ] 2>/dev/null; then echo "$foo is an integer" fi
[ parses the variable and interprets it as an integer because of the -eq. If the parsing succeeds the test is trivially true; if it fails [ prints an error message that 2>/dev/null hides and sets a status different from 0. However this method fails if the shell is ksh, because ksh evaluates the variable as an arithmetic expression.
You can use a similar trick with printf, but this won't work in all shells either:
# BASH if printf %f "$foo" >/dev/null 2>&1; then echo "$foo is a float" fi
You can use %d to parse an integer. Take care that the parsing might be (is supposed to be?) locale-dependent.