environ(7) — Linux manual page


environ(7)          Miscellaneous Information Manual          environ(7)

NAME         top

       environ - user environment

SYNOPSIS         top

       extern char **environ;

DESCRIPTION         top

       The variable environ points to an array of pointers to strings
       called the "environment".  The last pointer in this array has the
       value NULL.  This array of strings is made available to the
       process by the execve(2) call when a new program is started.
       When a child process is created via fork(2), it inherits a copy
       of its parent's environment.

       By convention, the strings in environ have the form "name=value".
       The name is case-sensitive and may not contain the character "=".
       The value can be anything that can be represented as a string.
       The name and the value may not contain an embedded null byte
       ('\0'), since this is assumed to terminate the string.

       Environment variables may be placed in the shell's environment by
       the export command in sh(1), or by the setenv command if you use

       The initial environment of the shell is populated in various
       ways, such as definitions from /etc/environment that are
       processed by pam_env(8) for all users at login time (on systems
       that employ pam(8)).  In addition, various shell initialization
       scripts, such as the system-wide /etc/profile script and per-user
       initializations script may include commands that add variables to
       the shell's environment; see the manual page of your preferred
       shell for details.

       Bourne-style shells support the syntax

           NAME=value command

       to create an environment variable definition only in the scope of
       the process that executes command.  Multiple variable
       definitions, separated by white space, may precede command.

       Arguments may also be placed in the environment at the point of
       an exec(3).  A C program can manipulate its environment using the
       functions getenv(3), putenv(3), setenv(3), and unsetenv(3).

       What follows is a list of environment variables typically seen on
       a system.  This list is incomplete and includes only common
       variables seen by average users in their day-to-day routine.
       Environment variables specific to a particular program or library
       function are documented in the ENVIRONMENT section of the
       appropriate manual page.

       USER   The name of the logged-in user (used by some BSD-derived
              programs).  Set at login time, see section NOTES below.

              The name of the logged-in user (used by some System-V
              derived programs).  Set at login time, see section NOTES

       HOME   A user's login directory.  Set at login time, see section
              NOTES below.

       LANG   The name of a locale to use for locale categories when not
              overridden by LC_ALL or more specific environment
              variables such as LC_COLLATE, LC_CTYPE, LC_MESSAGES,
              LC_MONETARY, LC_NUMERIC, and LC_TIME (see locale(7) for
              further details of the LC_* environment variables).

       PATH   The sequence of directory prefixes that sh(1) and many
              other programs employ when searching for an executable
              file that is specified as a simple filename (i.a., a
              pathname that contains no slashes).  The prefixes are
              separated by colons (:).  The list of prefixes is searched
              from beginning to end, by checking the pathname formed by
              concatenating a prefix, a slash, and the filename, until a
              file with execute permission is found.

              As a legacy feature, a zero-length prefix (specified as
              two adjacent colons, or an initial or terminating colon)
              is interpreted to mean the current working directory.
              However, use of this feature is deprecated, and POSIX
              notes that a conforming application shall use an explicit
              pathname (e.g., .)  to specify the current working

              Analogously to PATH, one has CDPATH used by some shells to
              find the target of a change directory command, MANPATH
              used by man(1) to find manual pages, and so on.

       PWD    Absolute path to the current working directory; required
              to be partially canonical (no . or .. components).

       SHELL  The absolute pathname of the user's login shell.  Set at
              login time, see section NOTES below.

       TERM   The terminal type for which output is to be prepared.

       PAGER  The user's preferred utility to display text files.  Any
              string acceptable as a command-string operand to the sh -c
              command shall be valid.  If PAGER is null or is not set,
              then applications that launch a pager will default to a
              program such as less(1) or more(1).

              The user's preferred utility to edit text files.  Any
              string acceptable as a command_string operand to the sh -c
              command shall be valid.

       Note that the behavior of many programs and library routines is
       influenced by the presence or value of certain environment
       variables.  Examples include the following:

       •  The variables LANG, LANGUAGE, NLSPATH, LOCPATH, LC_ALL,
          LC_MESSAGES, and so on influence locale handling; see
          catopen(3), gettext(3), and locale(7).

       •  TMPDIR influences the path prefix of names created by
          tempnam(3) and other routines, and the temporary directory
          used by sort(1) and other programs.

       •  LD_LIBRARY_PATH, LD_PRELOAD, and other LD_* variables
          influence the behavior of the dynamic loader/linker.  See also

       •  POSIXLY_CORRECT makes certain programs and library routines
          follow the prescriptions of POSIX.

       •  The behavior of malloc(3) is influenced by MALLOC_* variables.

       •  The variable HOSTALIASES gives the name of a file containing
          aliases to be used with gethostbyname(3).

       •  TZ and TZDIR give timezone information used by tzset(3) and
          through that by functions like ctime(3), localtime(3),
          mktime(3), strftime(3).  See also tzselect(8).

       •  TERMCAP gives information on how to address a given terminal
          (or gives the name of a file containing such information).

       •  COLUMNS and LINES tell applications about the window size,
          possibly overriding the actual size.

       •  PRINTER or LPDEST may specify the desired printer to use.  See

NOTES         top

       Historically and by standard, environ must be declared in the
       user program.  However, as a (nonstandard) programmer
       convenience, environ is declared in the header file <unistd.h> if
       the _GNU_SOURCE feature test macro is defined (see

       The prctl(2) PR_SET_MM_ENV_START and PR_SET_MM_ENV_END operations
       can be used to control the location of the process's environment.

       The HOME, LOGNAME, SHELL, and USER variables are set when the
       user is changed via a session management interface, typically by
       a program such as login(1) from a user database (such as
       passwd(5)).  (Switching to the root user using su(1) may result
       in a mixed environment where LOGNAME and USER are retained from
       old user; see the su(1) manual page.)

BUGS         top

       Clearly there is a security risk here.  Many a system command has
       been tricked into mischief by a user who specified unusual values
       for IFS or LD_LIBRARY_PATH.

       There is also the risk of name space pollution.  Programs like
       make and autoconf allow overriding of default utility names from
       the environment with similarly named variables in all caps.  Thus
       one uses CC to select the desired C compiler (and similarly MAKE,
       AR, AS, FC, LD, LEX, RM, YACC, etc.).  However, in some
       traditional uses such an environment variable gives options for
       the program instead of a pathname.  Thus, one has MORE and LESS.
       Such usage is considered mistaken, and to be avoided in new

SEE ALSO         top

       bash(1), csh(1), env(1), login(1), printenv(1), sh(1), su(1),
       tcsh(1), execve(2), clearenv(3), exec(3), getenv(3), putenv(3),
       setenv(3), unsetenv(3), locale(7), ld.so(8), pam_env(8)

Linux man-pages (unreleased)     (date)                       environ(7)

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