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Executes a shell command.


	procedure system (
		command [1] : string   



A singly dimensioned string containing a shell command to execute.


This procedure passes the string command to the shell environment for execution. When the command completes, control is returned to NCL.

Nothing is returned to the NCL environment.

The default shell used to execute command is /bin/sh (Bourne Shell). A different shell may be specified in command; to use a different shell, such as the C-Shell, commands are enclosed by single quotes (') to prevent the Bourne Shell from interpreting the commands. If the C-Shell command itself contains single quotes, they must be escaped with a '\'. See Example 5 below.

Using the system command, an NCL script can perform tasks often accomplished via a Linux/Unix shell script.

By default, system pages its output for the convenience of the user. If you have the PAGER environment variable set, that value is used for paging; if it's not set, the pager more is used. If this behavior is not desired, paging may be turned off by either setting the environment variable NCL_NO_SYSTEM_PAGER or by using the command line option -p. This functionality will be available in version 5.0.0 of NCL.

setenv NCL_NO_SYSTEM_PAGER 1    (csh)
export NCL_NO_SYSTEM_PAGER=1    (sh)
ncl -p

See Also

getenv, systemfunc


Example 1

Echo the current date and time to the screen:

This returns a string of the form: Wed Jan 12 19:40:25 MST 2005

Example 2

Use an NCL script to pass environment variables to another NCL script that uses getenv to access the settings. The following code will create a file name to be passed to an NCL script that converts the binary file to netCDF format.

Note: "export name=value" is used to set environment variables in the Bourne Shell (/bin/sh) and the semicolon (";") is used to place multiple shell commands on the same line.

  tStart = 0
  tLast  = 1500  
  tJump  = 30
  diri   = "/ptmp/user/model/binary/"
  diro   = "/ptmp/user/model/netCDF/"
  fRoot  = "myFile." 
  fExt   = ".bin"

  do time = tStart, tLast, tJump
     fili = fRoot + time + fExt    ; name is of form myFile.630.bin and similar
     filo = fili + ".nc"
     print ("time = " + time + " fili = " + fili)
     ; use Bourne Shell 'export' to create environment variables
     system ("   export DIRIN="   + diri + \
             " ; export DIROUT="  + diro + \
             " ; export FILEIN="  + fili + \
             " ; export FILEOUT=" + filo + \
             " ; ncl bin2nc_model.ncl ")   
  end do
The NCL script "bin2nc_model.ncl" accesses the environment variables using the getenv function:

  diri = getenv("DIRIN")
  fili = getenv("FILEIN")
  diro = getenv("DIROUT")
  filo = getenv("FILEOUT")    
Example 3

Use system to execute a sequence of commands to:

  • get files from NCAR's High Performance Storage System (HPSS)
  • use the netCDF operator "ncrcat" to extract the variable TEMP from multiple files
  • delete the original files from the HPSS since they are no longer needed.
Placing the command to be executed in a separate string is not necessary. In this example, the command string is used so that the user can explicitly see the command to be executed (this is good for debugging complicated strings.

  nyrStart = 400                         ; start year
  nyrLast  = 999                         ; last  year
  hpssi = "/CCSM/csm/b20.007/ocn/hist/"   ; HPSS directory
  fili = "b20.007.pop.h.0"               ; first part of file name
  diri = "/ptmp/user/"                   ; where to put files from MSS
  diro = "/ptmp/user/"                   ; where to put final files
  filo = "b20.TEMP."                     ; rename output files

  do nyear = nyrStart, nyrLast
      wallClock = systemfunc("date")                         ; determine start time for each year
      print("year = " + year + " wallClock = " + wallClock)  ; create/execute an HPSS command
      hpsscmd = "hsi get '" + hpssi + fili + nyear + "-[0-1][0-9].nc' " + diri + "."
      print(" hpsscmd = " + hpsscmd)

      ; use 'ncrcat' to extract variable
      ncocmd = "ncrcat -v TEMP " + diri + fili + "*.nc " + diro + filo + nyear + ".nc"
      print("ncocmd = " + ncocmd)

      ; delete original files
      rmcmd = "'rm' " + diri + fili + nyear + "*.nc"
      print("rmcmd = " + rmcmd)
  end do

Example 4

Use Bourne Shell syntax to create a directory if it does not already exist.

Note: in a Linux/Unix environment, multiple shell statements may be executed by using a semicolon (";") to separate them:

   system("if ! test -d " + DIR +" ; then mkdir " + DIR + " ; fi")
Example 5

The same as example 4, but use C-Shell (csh) syntax to create a directory if it doesn't already exist. To prevent the Bourne Shell from attempting to interpret C-Shell syntax, commands are enclosed by single quotes ('). If the C-Shell command itself contains single quotes, they must be escaped with a '\'.

  system("csh -c 'if (! -d " + DIR +") then ;  mkdir " + DIR + " ; endif'")

Example 6

Use ImageMagick's convert to create a gif image from a postscript file generated within NCL.

Let the generated graphic be

  wks = gsn_open_wks("ps","sample")         ; create "./"

; generate the plot(s) and before exit

  system("convert -density 128 -trim +repage sample.gif)
                                              ; remove the ps files
  system("/bin/rm -f

Another approach with the same result:

  pltName = "sample"
  pltType = "ps"
  pltDir  = "./"                              ; directory for plots
  pltPath = pltDir + pltName

  wks = gsn_open_wks(pltType,pltPath)         ; create "./"

; generate the plot(s) and before exit

  pltIn  = pltPath+"."+pltType
  pltOut = pltPath+".gif"
  system("convert -density 128 -trim +repage "+pltIn+" "+pltOut")
                                              ; remove the ps files
  system("/bin/rm -f "+pltIn)

Example 7

Use an NCL script to invoke a different NCL script. This example was based upon an ncl-talk question. A user had a bash shell script that invoked an NCL script with a command line argument. The following shows how NCL could be used in a similar manner. NOTE: The sample creates an explicit variable 'CMD' to hold the string that will be passed to the system. This is not required. It is done for pedantic purposes. Two sample system commands are illustrated.

;; ====> Simulate the following bash shell script <====
;; #!/bin/bash
;; season=(JJA DJF MAM)
;; for ((k=0; k<${#season[@]}; k=k+1))
;; do
;; ncl 'se="${season[${k}]}"' sample.ncl
;; done

   dq     = str_get_dq()     ; double quote (") as a string
   season = (/"JJA", "DJF", "MAM" /)

   do k=0,dimsizes(season)-1 ; loop over each season
      CMD = "ncl 'se="+dq+season(k)+dq+"' sample.ncl"
     ;CMD = "ncl 'se="+dq+season(k)+dq+"' sample.ncl >&! out.sample."+k
      print(""+CMD)           ; print for illustration
      system(CMD)            ; system("ncl 'se="+dq+season(k)+dq+"' test.ncl")
   end do

A trivial NCL script 'sample.ncl' might be
  print("sample.ncl : season="+se)
The output would be
sample.ncl: season=JJA
sample.ncl: season=DJF
sample.ncl: season=MAM