I have the following two lines of code in my init.el file:

(setq shell-file-name "bash")
(setq shell-command-switch "-ic")

I tried executing the following script to get a list of executables using the shell script dmenu_path.

(defun dmenu-path-out ()
  (shell-command-to-string "dmenu_path"))

I see the following error:

bash: cannot set terminal process group (-1): Inappropriate ioctl for device
bash: no job control in this shell

How can I prevent bash from returning that error when using shell-command?


2 Answers 2


The -i flag requests that Bash run in interactive mode, which requires a terminal. The solution is to leave the shell-command-switch variable at its default value, which is just -c.

If you really need to run Bash in interactive mode, you will need to run it in a pseudo-terminal, by using start-file-process with process-connection-type bound to t.

  • This didn't work for me.
    – Didier A.
    Commented Aug 18, 2018 at 9:07
  • 1
    It works for me. As an example, this command launches gnome-terminal, runs echo and leaves the Bash session running and ready to take new commands: (start-file-process-shell-command "peekaboo" "*Messages*" "gnome-terminal -- bash -c 'echo Peekaboo!; bash'"); any output from the Elisp command is sent to the *Messages* buffer. Note that I used start-file-process-shell-command instead of start-file-process, so I don't need to give the path to shell programs. Commented Mar 25, 2019 at 17:52

Did you add -i to get bash to expand aliases? If so, as given in https://stackoverflow.com/questions/12224909, instead include

(setenv "BASH_ENV" "~/.bashrc")

in your .emacs and

shopt -s expand_aliases

in your .bashrc. The former causes your .bashrc to be run on your sub-shells, and the latter allows alias expansion in non-login bash shells.

You can go one better by creating a separate shell script with your aliases and the shopt line, and using that as the BASH_ENV value; that may run faster than your full ~/.bashrc.

  • Can you please summarize the fix detailed there? Otherwise this is essentially a link-only answer and so risks being deleted.
    – Drew
    Commented May 29, 2019 at 1:19

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