MirBSD manpage: xargs(1)

XARGS(1)                     BSD Reference Manual                     XARGS(1)


     xargs - construct argument list(s) and execute utility


     xargs [-0oprt] [-E eofstr] [-I replstr [-R replacements]] [-J replstr]
           [-L number] [-n number [-x]] [-P maxprocs] [-s size]
           [utility [argument ...]]


     The xargs utility reads space, tab, newline, and end-of-file delimited
     strings from the standard input and executes the specified utility with
     the strings as arguments.

     Any arguments specified on the command line are given to the utility upon
     each invocation, followed by some number of the arguments read from stan-
     dard input. The utility is repeatedly executed one or more times until
     standard input is exhausted.

     Spaces, tabs and newlines may be embedded in arguments using single (''')
     or double ('"') quotes or backslashes ('\'). Single quotes escape all
     non-single quote characters, excluding newlines, up to the matching sin-
     gle quote. Double quotes escape all non-double quote characters, exclud-
     ing newlines, up to the matching double quote. Any single character, in-
     cluding newlines, may be escaped by a backslash.

     The options are as follows:

     -0      Change xargs to expect NUL ('\0') characters as separators, in-
             stead of spaces and newlines. This is expected to be used in con-
             cert with the -print0 function in find(1).

     -E eofstr
             Use eofstr as a logical EOF marker.

     -I replstr
             Execute utility for each input line, replacing one or more oc-
             currences of replstr in up to replacements (or 5 if no -R flag is
             specified) arguments to utility with the entire line of input.
             The resulting arguments, after replacement is done, will not be
             allowed to grow beyond 255 bytes; this is implemented by con-
             catenating as much of the argument containing replstr as possi-
             ble, to the constructed arguments to utility, up to 255 bytes.
             The 255 byte limit does not apply to arguments to utility which
             do not contain replstr, and furthermore, no replacement will be
             done on utility itself. Implies -x.

     -J replstr
             If this option is specified, xargs will use the data read from
             standard input to replace the first occurrence of replstr instead
             of appending that data after all other arguments. This option
             will not effect how many arguments will be read from input (-n),
             or the size of the command(s) xargs will generate (-s). The op-
             tion just moves where those arguments will be placed in the
             command(s) that are executed. The replstr must show up as a dis-
             tinct argument to xargs. It will not be recognized if, for in-
             stance, it is in the middle of a quoted string. Furthermore, only
             the first occurrence of the replstr will be replaced. For exam-
             ple, the following command will copy the list of files and direc-
             tories which start with an uppercase letter in the current direc-
             tory to destdir:

                   /bin/ls -1d [A-Z]* | xargs -J % cp -rp % destdir

     -L number
             Call utility for every number of lines read. If EOF is reached
             and fewer than number lines have been read then utility will be
             called with the available lines.

     -n number
             Set the maximum number of arguments taken from standard input for
             each invocation of utility. An invocation of utility will use
             less than number standard input arguments if the number of bytes
             accumulated (see the -s option) exceeds the specified size or
             there are fewer than number arguments remaining for the last in-
             vocation of utility. The current default value for number is

     -o      Reopen stdin as /dev/tty in the child process before executing
             the command. This is useful if you want xargs to run an interac-
             tive application.

     -P maxprocs
             Parallel mode: run at most maxprocs invocations of utility at

     -p      Echo each command to be executed and ask the user whether it
             should be executed. An affirmative response, 'y' in the POSIX lo-
             cale, causes the command to be executed, any other response
             causes it to be skipped. No commands are executed if the process
             is not attached to a terminal.

     -R replacements
             Specify the maximum number of arguments that -I will do replace-
             ment in. If replacements is negative, the number of arguments in
             which to replace is unbounded.

     -r      Do not run the command if there are no arguments. Normally the
             command is executed at least once even if there are no arguments.

     -s size
             Set the maximum number of bytes for the command line length pro-
             vided to utility. The sum of the length of the utility name, the
             arguments passed to utility (including NUL terminators) and the
             current environment will be less than or equal to this number.
             The current default value for size is ARG_MAX - 4096.

     -t      Echo the command to be executed to standard error immediately be-
             fore it is executed.

     -x      Force xargs to terminate immediately if a command line containing
             number arguments will not fit in the specified (or default) com-
             mand line length.

     If no utility is specified, echo(1) is used.

     Undefined behavior may occur if utility reads from the standard input.

     The xargs utility exits immediately (without processing any further in-
     put) if a command line cannot be assembled, utility cannot be invoked, an
     invocation of utility is terminated by a signal, or an invocation of
     utility exits with a value of 255.


     xargs exits with one of the following values:

     0       All invocations of utility returned a zero exit status.
     123     One or more invocations of utility returned a nonzero exit
     124     The utility exited with a 255 exit status.
     125     The utility was killed or stopped by a signal.
     126     The utility was found but could not be executed.
     127     The utility could not be found.
     1       Some other error occurred.


     echo(1), find(1), execvp(3)


     The xargs utility is expected to be IEEE Std 1003.2 ("POSIX.2") compli-
     ant. The -J, -o, -P, -R and -r options are non-standard extensions which
     may not be available on other operating systems.

     The meanings of the 123, 124, and 125 exit values were taken from GNU


     The xargs command appeared in PWB UNIX.


     If utility attempts to invoke another command such that the number of ar-
     guments or the size of the environment is increased, it risks execvp(3)
     failing with E2BIG.

MirBSD #10-current               May 7, 2001                                 2

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