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2.6 Executable Octave Programs

Once you have learned Octave, you may want to write self-contained Octave scripts, using the ‘#!’ script mechanism. You can do this on GNU systems and on many Unix systems 1.

Self-contained Octave scripts are useful when you want to write a program which users can invoke without knowing that the program is written in the Octave language. Octave scripts are also used for batch processing of data files. Once an algorithm has been developed and tested in the interactive portion of Octave, it can be committed to an executable script and used again and again on new data files.

As a trivial example of an executable Octave script, you might create a text file named hello, containing the following lines:

#! octave-interpreter-name -qf
# a sample Octave program
printf ("Hello, world!\n");

(where octave-interpreter-name should be replaced with the full path and name of your Octave binary). Note that this will only work if ‘#!’ appears at the very beginning of the file. After making the file executable (with the chmod command on Unix systems), you can simply type:


at the shell, and the system will arrange to run Octave as if you had typed:

octave hello

The line beginning with ‘#!’ lists the full path and filename of an interpreter to be run, and an optional initial command line argument to pass to that interpreter. The operating system then runs the interpreter with the given argument and the full argument list of the executed program. The first argument in the list is the full file name of the Octave executable. The rest of the argument list will either be options to Octave, or data files, or both. The ‘-qf’ options are usually specified in stand-alone Octave programs to prevent them from printing the normal startup message, and to keep them from behaving differently depending on the contents of a particular user’s ~/.octaverc file. See Invoking Octave from the Command Line.

Note that some operating systems may place a limit on the number of characters that are recognized after ‘#!’. Also, the arguments appearing in a ‘#!’ line are parsed differently by various shells/systems. The majority of them group all the arguments together in one string and pass it to the interpreter as a single argument. In this case, the following script:

#! octave-interpreter-name -q -f # comment

is equivalent to typing at the command line:

octave "-q -f # comment"

which will produce an error message. Unfortunately, it is not possible for Octave to determine whether it has been called from the command line or from a ‘#!’ script, so some care is needed when using the ‘#!’ mechanism.

Note that when Octave is started from an executable script, the built-in function argv returns a cell array containing the command line arguments passed to the executable Octave script, not the arguments passed to the Octave interpreter on the ‘#!’ line of the script. For example, the following program will reproduce the command line that was used to execute the script, not ‘-qf’.

#! /bin/octave -qf
printf ("%s", program_name ());
arg_list = argv ();
for i = 1:nargin
  printf (" %s", arg_list{i});
printf ("\n");



The ‘#!’ mechanism works on Unix systems derived from Berkeley Unix, System V Release 4, and some System V Release 3 systems.

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