Creating a Terminal shell - Redirecting Streams

This post is in continuation to to our series on creating a terminal shell. You can checkout the first post here. In this post, we’ll add the ability to redirect streams for the programs we run through our terminal shell.*

In this post we’ll add another important functionality present in almost all terminal shells, the ability to redirect streams — stdin, stdout, and stderr.

In our shell, we’ll identify three specific tokens that will tell us that the user wants to redirect streams :

“>”  — Redirect the output stream

“<”  — Redirect the input stream

“>&” — Redirect the error stream

There is an easy way to redirect streams on Linux, we can use the dup2 function call which takes two arguments, the source file number, and the destination file number :

int dup2(int oldfd, int newfd);

So, let’s say we want to redirect the output stream, what we can do is, create a new file in write mode, call dup2 with the oldfd as our newly created file, and the newfd as stdout. So, by doing this we’re in effect making our newly created file as stdout.

See the following example :

FILE* stdout_redirect = fopen(output_file_name, "w");
dup2(fileno(stdout_redirect), fileno(stdout));


We need to call fclose because now stdout is pointing towards our file and we can release the stdout_redirect file descriptor.

Using this process we can create a function set_streams which accepts a struct of three different streams and just redirects each of them.

Now the other problem we need to solve is to get the file names for this redirection to take place, whenever a user would want to redirect the streams, they would have to use those symbols we earlier mentioned. We can use theme symbols in our tokenize_line function. Before that we’ll create an enum and a struct which we’ll rely on while detecting streams. We’ll add these to shell.h header file.

typedef enum {

typedef struct {
 const char* input;
 const char* output;
 const char* err;
} stream_s;

Now whenever we get one of the tokens from [“>”, “<”, “>&”], we’ll set the STREAM_TYPE, and when we get the next token from the input line, we’ll know that it is the file name for redirection and not a simple token.

Here’s how it’s done:

Now just run make, and we can redirect streams !

kartik@kt:~/projects/blog$ ./bin/msh
msh >> ls
bin  include  lib  LICENSE  Makefile  README  src
msh >> ls > out
msh >> cat out