File execution sequence


.bash_profile, .bash_login, .bashrc, and .profile all do pretty much the same thing: set up and define functions, variables, and the sorts.

The main difference is that .bashrc is called at the opening of a non-login but interactive window, and .bash_profile and the others are called for a login shell. Many people have their .bash_profile or similar call .bashrc anyway.


Other files of note are:

  • /etc/profile, for system-wide (not user specific) initialization code.

  • .bash_logout, triggered when logging out (think cleanup stuff)

  • .inputrc, similar to .bashrc but for readline.

.profile vs .bash_profile (and .bash_login)

.profile is read by most shells on startup, including bash. However, .bash_profile is used for configurations specific to bash. For general initialization code, put it in .profile. If it's specific to bash, use .bash_profile.

.profile isn't actually designed for bash specifically, .bash_profile is though instead. (.profile is for Bourne and other similar shells, which bash is based off) Bash will fall back to .profile if .bash_profile isn't found.

.bash_login is a fallback for .bash_profile, if it isn't found. Generally best to use .bash_profile or .profile instead.

Bash Pedia