Leading zeros with bash brace expansion

I use bash brace expansion extensively, both in interactive terminal sessions and in shell scripts. The idea is pretty simple: the simple syntax {n..m} is a shortcut to an array containing all of the integers from n to m, inclusive. I’ve used this syntax several times in examples on this blog, including a recent post about task automation in bash.

Today one of my social media acquaintances posted the following on Twitter.

The implication is pretty clear: if you want the values in the array to have leading zeros, just add the leading zeros to the first number in the range. I checked that this works for arbitrary ranges, so things like {001..200} and {00001..50000} also work as expected.

This is a very nice feature I didn’t know about before. Even when you’re lucky enough to have a data set that is nicely organized with well-thought-out filenames, it’s a 50/50 chance whether serially numbered files/samples will have leading zeroes or not. This bash feature makes it dead simple to handle both cases trivially!


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