Bash – Is double square brackets [[ ]] preferable over single square brackets [ ] in Bash


A co-worker claimed recently in a code review that the [[ ]] construct is to be preferred over [ ] in constructs like

if [ "`id -nu`" = "$someuser" ] ; then 
     echo "I love you madly, $someuser"

He couldn't provide a rationale. Is there one?

Best Solution

[[ has fewer surprises and is generally safer to use. But it is not portable - POSIX doesn't specify what it does and only some shells support it (beside bash, I heard ksh supports it too). For example, you can do

[[ -e $b ]]

to test whether a file exists. But with [, you have to quote $b, because it splits the argument and expands things like "a*" (where [[ takes it literally). That has also to do with how [ can be an external program and receives its argument just normally like every other program (although it can also be a builtin, but then it still has not this special handling).

[[ also has some other nice features, like regular expression matching with =~ along with operators like they are known in C-like languages. Here is a good page about it: What is the difference between test, [ and [[ ? and Bash Tests