Ubuntu Add to PATH: Simplifying Command Execution


Navigating through the command line in Ubuntu becomes much more efficient when you can execute scripts or applications from any directory. This capability is controlled by the PATH environment variable, a critical system setting that determines where the system looks for executable files. Adding directories to your PATH allows you to run your scripts or programs without specifying their full directory path, streamlining your workflow. This guide will show you how to add directories to the PATH variable in Ubuntu, enhancing your command-line efficiency.

Understanding the PATH Variable

The PATH environment variable in Ubuntu is a colon-separated list of directories that tells the shell where to look for executable files. When you type a command in the terminal, the shell searches through the directories listed in your PATH in order until it finds the executable file. If the file isn't found, you'll receive an error message saying the command could not be found.

Viewing Your Current PATH

Before adding new directories to your PATH, it's helpful to see what's currently set. To view your PATH, open a terminal and enter:

echo  $PATH

This command will display the directories currently in your PATH, separated by colons.

Temporarily Adding Directories to PATH

To temporarily add a directory to your PATH for the duration of your current terminal session, use the export command:

export  PATH=$PATH:/path/to/your/directory

Replace /path/to/your/directory with the actual path you wish to add. This change lasts until you close the terminal or log out.

Permanently Adding Directories to PATH

For changes that persist across all future terminal sessions and reboots, you'll need to add the directory to your PATH in your profile script.

  1. Open Your Profile Script:
  • For a single user, edit ~/.bashrc or ~/.profile.
  • For system-wide changes, edit /etc/profile (requires superuser permissions).
  1. Add Your Directory to the PATH:
  • At the end of the file, add:
export  PATH=$PATH:/path/to/your/directory
  • Save and close the file.
  1. Apply the Changes:
  • For changes in ~/.bashrc or ~/.profile, use:
source  ~/.bashrc


source  ~/.profile
  • For system-wide changes, you'll need to reboot or log out and back in for the changes to take effect.

Verifying Your New PATH

To ensure your directory was successfully added, open a new terminal session and echo the PATH variable again:

echo  $PATH

Check to see if your new directory is listed.


Adding directories to your PATH in Ubuntu is a straightforward process that can significantly enhance your productivity and command-line workflow. By understanding how to modify the PATH variable, both temporarily and permanently, you can ensure that your custom scripts and executables are readily accessible, regardless of your current working directory. This flexibility is just one of the many features that make Ubuntu a powerful environment for developers and system administrators alike.