ENVIRON(7) Linux Programmer's Manual ENVIRON(7)
environ - user environment
extern char **environ;
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 variable must be declared in the user program, but is declared in
the header file <unistd.h> if the _GNU_SOURCE feature test macro is
defined.) This array of strings is made available to the process by
the exec(3) call that started the process. 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". Com-
mon examples are:
USER The name of the logged-in user (used by some BSD-derived pro-
The name of the logged-in user (used by some System-V derived
HOME A user's login directory, set by login(1) from the password file
LANG The name of a locale to use for locale categories when not over-
ridden 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_* environ-
PATH The sequence of directory prefixes that sh(1) and many other
programs apply in searching for a file known by an incomplete
pathname. The prefixes are separated by ':'. (Similarly 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 The current working directory. Set by some shells.
SHELL The pathname of the user's login shell.
TERM The terminal type for which output is to be prepared.
PAGER The user's preferred utility to display text files.
The user's preferred utility to edit text files.
Names may be placed in the shell's environment by the export command in
sh(1), or by the setenv command if you use csh(1).
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 addi-
tion, 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
to create an environment variable definition only in the scope of the
process that executes command. Multiple variable definitions, sepa-
rated 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 func-
tions getenv(3), putenv(3), setenv(3), and unsetenv(3).
Note that the behavior of many programs and library routines is influ-
enced by the presence or value of certain environment variables. Exam-
ples 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
* TMPDIR influences the path prefix of names created by tempnam(3) and
other routines, and the temporary directory used by sort(1) and
* LD_LIBRARY_PATH, LD_PRELOAD, and other LD_* variables influence the
behavior of the dynamic loader/linker.
* 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), strf-
time(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
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.
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
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, LESS, and GZIP. Such usage is considered mistaken, and
to be avoided in new programs. The authors of gzip should consider
renaming their option to GZIP_OPT.
bash(1), csh(1), env(1), login(1), printenv(1), sh(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)
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Linux 2017-09-15 ENVIRON(7)