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Command Line Processing

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What is a command line interface?

When a processor is invoked it will be from an interactive or batch shell of some kind. A command line will be used to specify the name of the processor and any inputs that it needs. A few typical Unix command lines are:

cc -o fred.exe fred.c
vi fred.c
rlogin prep.ai.mit.edu -l rms

Note that a pipe command such as:

format doc.troff | lpr -Plaser
consists of two command lines because two programs are invoked.

In these examples various options are given to some of the tools via the command line. For example, -o fred.exe specifies that the output file of the C compilation should be called fred.exe rather than the default a.out. A major part of the job of a command line interface is to provide mechanisms for specifying which options are legal and allowing the processor to find out which ones the user actually supplied.

Other information can be provided on the command line in the form of positional parameters. For example, fred.c in the first two examples and prep.ai.mit.edu in the last are positional parameters. A command line interface is also responsible for providing access to positional parameters.

Unix provides access to the components of the command line for C programs via the argc and argv parameters to the main function. The facility described in this manual uses those parameters to provide higher-level access.

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