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Mastering Troubleshooting: Fixing Unexpected Token Errors in Bash Scripts

Troubleshooting Bash Script Errors: Finding and Fixing Syntax Issues

As a developer, you may find yourself grappling with unexpected errors in your Bash scripts. A common issue experienced by users is the “unexpected token” error, which occurs when the shell does not recognize a specific character or combination of characters in the script.

This can lead to frustration and confusion when working to troubleshoot and resolve the underlying issue. In this article, we will guide you through troubleshooting unexpected token errors in Bash scripts.

We will also discuss how to remove Windows line breaks, view hidden characters using the cat command, and automatically convert non-Unix files to a Unix-friendly format.

Identifying the Problem

The first step in troubleshooting Bash script errors is to identify the problem. The most common issue that users encounter is the unexpected token error.

This error is often caused by a syntax error in the script or an invisible character that is not visible using standard text editing tools. If you encounter unexpected token errors, the first thing to check is the syntax of your code.

Review your script line by line, and ensure that all the brackets, parentheses, and commas are correctly placed. You may also want to check for spelling errors or incorrect variable assignments.

If your script appears to have no syntax errors, the next step is to check for invisible characters. Hidden characters such as Windows carriage returns can cause unexpected token errors.

It is important to use a reliable text editor such as Sublime Text or VS Code to display and remove such characters.

Removing Windows Line Breaks Using Console Commands

Windows line breaks can also be a source of unexpected token errors. If you are working on a script that has been shared across different operating systems, or if you have copied and pasted content from a Windows machine, these line breaks can be problematic.

Fortunately, you can remove them using console commands. There are many console commands that can be used to remove Windows line breaks.

One such command is the “dos2unix” command. This command automates the conversion of text files from DOS/Windows format to Unix format.

You can install this command using your package manager as follows:


sudo apt-get install dos2unix


sudo yum install dos2unix

Once installed, you can run the command in the terminal as follows:

dos2unix file_name

This will remove all Windows line breaks from your file, ensuring that it is compatible with Unix systems.

Automatically Converting Non-UNIX Files into a UNIX-Friendly Format

Rather than manually removing invisible characters and Windows line breaks, you can also automate the process. One of the most popular tools for converting non-Unix files to a Unix-friendly format is “dos2unix”.

This tool works by stripping out all the non-printable characters from a file and converting it to Unix format. To use dos2unix, you must first install it on your system.

On CentOS/Fedora, you can install it using the following command:

sudo yum install dos2unix

On Ubuntu/Debian, use the command:

sudo apt-get install dos2unix

Once installed, you can use dos2unix as follows:

dos2unix file_name

This will convert any non-Unix file to a Unix-friendly format. With this tool, you can quickly convert all your Bash scripts to be compatible with Unix systems.

Using the cat Command to View Hidden Characters

Another useful tool for identifying hidden characters in your Bash scripts is the cat command. This command can be used to view all the characters in a file, including the invisible ones.

To use the cat command, open your terminal and type the following command:

cat -A file_name

This will display all the characters in your file, including the hidden characters. The “-A” flag causes all non-printing characters to be displayed as well.

Checking for Syntax Errors in Bash Scripts

As mentioned earlier, syntax errors are a common cause of unexpected token errors in Bash scripts. To identify syntax errors in your script, consider the following common syntax mistakes:

– Incorrectly matching brackets, parentheses, and quotes.

– Misspelling variable names or commands. – Mismatched numerical operators.

– Mismatched conditional statements. Double-check your script for any of these errors and ensure that everything is correctly spaced and formatted.

Other Possible Causes of Syntax Errors in Bash Scripts

If none of the above steps resolves your unexpected token error, it may be caused by other issues. For example, a file may be corrupted or contain characters that are not recognized by the shell.

Another potential issue is that the line endings have been altered between different platforms. In such cases, you may need to use advanced tools to troubleshoot these errors.

An example of such an advanced tool is “grep”. This tool is used to locate specific lines and patterns within a file.

You can use grep to identify syntax errors in your script or locate specific lines that need to be updated.


Troubleshooting unexpected token errors in Bash scripts can be a daunting task. However, by understanding the root cause of the issue, you can fix the errors and ensure that your scripts run smoothly.

We hope that this guide has been helpful in guiding you through the process of identifying and fixing syntax errors. By following these tips, you can become a more efficient and effective Bash script developer.

In summary, this article discussed troubleshooting unexpected token errors in Bash scripts. It covered how to identify the problem of syntax errors or hidden characters, how to remove Windows line breaks using console commands, and how to automatically convert non-Unix files to a Unix-friendly format.

The article also introduced the cat command for viewing hidden characters and suggested common syntax mistakes to avoid. Understanding these troubleshooting techniques can make you a more efficient and effective Bash script developer who can develop scripts that run smoothly.

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