# Quick math on the terminal

Hey there!

Just this past week I stumbled on a HN comment from 2019. The commenter was fiddling with some scripts to perform some simple math directly on the (bash) terminal.

What the commenter proposed was something like this, based on the dc command (comments are mine).

$. calc.sh # Load functionality$ * 4 5      # Multiply 4 and 5
20
$/ 21 3 # Divide 21 by 3 7 This sounded interesting. I normally open a terminal and invoke Python when I need to do some simple math, and doing it directly without invoking python was appealing. If I were to do a simple change… some people can find Polish notation intuitive, but for this I'd rather have some more standard notation. Think something like: $ C 4 * 5
20
$C 21 / 3 7 You get the point, the command is named C and the arguments should feel as natural as possible. The simplest way to do this would be to write a simple bash function that invokes the Python interpreter transparently, let's say… C () { python -c "print($*)"
}

But there's a problem! With this we can perform some commands, but products (*) will get expanded into file names:

# Let's just simulate a directory with some files
$mkdir test$ cd test
$touch fname1$ touch fname2
# Now, if we invoke the function, the '*' will be replaced with file names
$C 4 * 5 File "<string>", line 1 print(4 fname1 fname2 5) ^ SyntaxError: invalid syntax We might thing about disabling the expansion on our C command. But the expansion happens before our command is run, so that won't fix it. Something that looks like a command, and can do things before it's arguments are expanded is an alias. __calc () { python -c "print($*)"
set +f  # Re-enable wildcard expansion
}

alias C='set -f; __calc '

This way, the alias runs set -f and disables the expansion before the __calc function arguments get a chance to be evaluated.

$C 4 * 5 20$ echo *
fname1 fname2

Ok, now lets import the Python math library

__calc () {
python -c "from math import *; print($*)" set +f # Re-enable wildcard expansion } alias C='set -f; __calc ' And let's we use the library to do some calculations: $ C sqrt( 999 )
bash: syntax error near unexpected token ('

Well, that's not great. See, the ( character in bash will be understood as the start of a subshell and this, unlike the file name expansion, cannot be disabled.

To be honest, I have yet not found a solution for this, but I can offer you two options:

One, just quote the parameters:

$C "sqrt( 999 )" 31.606961258558215 The other is to take in the command with other charaters replacing the parens [](): ### Result __calc () { local __calc_CMD=$(echo "$*"|tr "[]" "()") python -c "from math import *; print($__calc_CMD)"
set +f  # Re-enable wildcard expansion
}

alias C='set -f; __calc '

And with this we have our calculations on the shell:

\$ C sqrt [ 3 + [ 3 * 4 ] / 2 ]
3.0`

That's it, maybe it can be useful to you. Bye!