printenv - Linux


The printenv command in Linux displays the values of the specified environment variables. If no variables are specified, it prints all environment variables currently defined in the user’s session. This tool is particularly useful in scripting and debugging to ensure that the environment is configured correctly.


The basic syntax for printenv is:

printenv [OPTION]... [VARIABLE]...
  • [VARIABLE]…: You can specify one or more environment variables whose values you wish to see. If no VARIABLE is specified, printenv outputs all environment variables.


  • -0, --null: End each output line with a 0 byte (ASCII NUL) instead of a newline. This option can be helpful when processing output in languages or scripts that can handle null delimiters.

  • --help: Display help information and exit.

  • --version: Output version information and exit.


  1. Display All Environment Variables:


    This command prints all environment variables available in the current session.

  2. Display Specific Environment Variable:

    printenv PATH

    Outputs the value of the PATH environment variable.

  3. Display Multiple Variables:

    printenv PATH HOME

    This will show the values of both PATH and HOME environment variables.

  4. Use Null Character as a Separator:

    printenv -0

    Useful for processing output in scripts where null-terminated strings are required.

Common Issues

  • Variable Not Found: If a specified variable does not exist, printenv simply does nothing for that variable and moves on. No error message is displayed.
  • Misunderstanding Output: New users might misunderstand the output if multiple variables are not defined clearly, as printenv does no formatting other than newline characters (or null if -0 is used).


printenv can be effectively combined with other commands in scripts or as part of command chains. Below are a couple of examples:

  • Scripting Usage:
    if [ -z $(printenv DATABASE_URL) ]; then
        echo "DATABASE_URL is not set."
        echo "Starting application..."
  • Piping with grep:
    printenv | grep -i path

    This filters and displays only the environment variables that include the string “path”.

  • set: Displays both environment and shell variables.
  • env: Often used not only to display environment variables but to set them for a sub-process.

For further reading and more detailed information, please consult the printenv man page:

man printenv

or the GNU Coreutils online documentation.