Overwrite last line on terminal

My bash-script looks as following:

echo "Description:"
while [ $finishInput -eq 0 ]; do
read tmp
if [ -z "$tmp" ]; then
echo -n "Maintainer:"
read maintainer

It reads to the desc var until a empty line is passed. After that, i want to read in other stuff.

When executing my current script it looks like this:

Line 1
Line 2


I would like to overwrite the last empty line with the "Maintainer:".

I searched for a solution but only found suggestions which were like

echo -n "Old line"
echo -e "\r new line"

which stays on the line and overwrites it. This is not possible in my case.


Just use "\e[1A".

In your example you delete the text at the same line:

$ echo -n "Old line"; echo -e "\e[0K\r new line"
 new line

When you want to return to the previous line use \e[1A:

$ echo "Old line"; echo -en "\e[1A"; echo -e "\e[0K\r new line"
 new line

When you want to go N lines up, use \e[<N>A.

I built a function from Dennis Williamsons Comment:

function clearLastLine() {
        tput cuu 1 && tput el

Thanks to Dennis Williamson

Found a great guide on escape sequences and wanted to expand on some of the discussions here.

When you write out to a terminal, you move an invisible cursor around, much like you do when you write in any text editor. When using echo, it will automatically end the output with a new line character which moves the cursor to the next line.

$ echo "Hello" && echo " World"

You can use -n to prevent the new line and if you echo again after this, it will append it to the end of that line

$ echo -n "Hello" && echo " World"
Hello World

The cursor remains where it was so, on it's own, we can't use -n to overwrite the previous line, we need to move the cursor to the left. To do that we need to give it an escape sequence, which we let echo know we're going to use with -e and then move the cursor by providing a return carriage \r which puts the cursor at the beginning of the line.

$ echo -n "Hello" && echo -e "\rWorld"

That may look like it worked, but see what happens with

$ echo -n "A longer sentance" && echo -e "\rShort sentance"
Short sentancence

See the extra characters? Simply writing over the line only changes the characters where we wrote them.

To fix this, the accepted answer above uses the escape character \e[0K to erase everything after the cursor, after the cursor has moved left. i.e. \r move to beginning \e[0K erase to end.

$ echo -n "A longer sentance" && echo -e "\r\e[0KShort sentance"
Short sentance

Important \e to begin escape sequences works in zsh but not in sh and not necessarily in bash, however \033 works in all of them. If you want your script to work anywhere, you should preference \033

$ echo -n "A longer sentance" && echo -e "\r\033[0KShort sentance"
Short sentance

But escape characters can provide even more utility. For example \033[1A moves the cursor to the previous line so we don't need the -n on the previous echo:

$ echo "A longer sentance" && echo -e "\r\033[1A\033[0KShort sentance"
Short sentance

\r move to the beginning \033[1A move up \033[0K erase to the end

Finally, this is all a bit messy in my book, so you can turn this into a function:

overwrite() { echo -e "\r\033[1A\033[0K$@"; }

Using $@ just puts all the parameters of the function into the string

$ echo Longer sentance && overwrite Short sentence
Short sentence

Hope that helps people who want to know a bit more.

If you echo without the newline character echo -n "Something", you can use \r with your next echo to move the 'cursor' to the beginning of the line echo -e "\\rOverwrite something".



echo -e "\n\e[4mDoing Things\e[0m"
echo -n "doing thing 1..."
sleep 1
echo -e "\\r${CHECK_MARK} thing 1 done"

Just be aware that if your new string is shorter that your old string, the tail of your old string will still be visible. Note the done.. in the gif above.


echo "Description:"
while test -z $finishInput; do
 read -s tmp
 if [ -z "$tmp" ]; then
    echo $tmp
 #echo "fi="$finishInput;
echo -n "Maintainer:"
read maintainer

This solution avoids the empty line, but input is not echoed before the lines are complete.

Hint: My version of bash did not accept "[ $finishInput -eq 0 ]".

If you want to run a script in a loop and not blow up your scrollback, you can use the following pattern:

while sleep 10s; do 
  echo -n $(script)
  echo -n -e "\e[0K\r"

Just replace the script command with your own.

Need Your Help

'POCO' definition

class poco

Can someone define what exactly 'POCO' means? I am encountering the term more and more often, and I'm wondering if it is only about plain classes or it means something more?