How to Use Bc Command on Linux

Bc Command on Linux

In the realm of Linux command-line utilities, the Bc command stands out as a versatile and powerful tool for performing advanced mathematical calculations. Often referred to as a sophisticated arbitrary precision calculator, Bc offers a host of features that can elevate your number-crunching tasks to a whole new level. Whether you’re a seasoned Linux user or just venturing into the command-line landscape, this guide will equip you with the knowledge and skills to harness the full potential of the Bc command.

Unveiling the Bc Command

Amidst the sea of Linux commands, the Bc command emerges as an unsung hero, designed to handle complex mathematical computations seamlessly. Originally inspired by the C programming language, Bc has evolved into a versatile calculator capable of executing calculations with utmost precision. But what sets Bc apart is its scripting prowess. It’s not just a calculator; it’s a powerful scripting language that can integrate with other Linux commands, making it a remarkable tool for automation and data manipulation.

Installation and Setup

Before diving into the world of Bc, you need to ensure it’s available on your system. Begin by checking whether Bc is already installed by running the command bc in your terminal. If it’s not installed, fear not; the installation process is a breeze. Depending on your Linux distribution, you can use your package manager to swiftly bring Bc into your arsenal.

### Ubuntu/Debian (apt) ### 

sudo apt update 
sudo apt install bc 

### CentOS/Fedora (yum) ### 

sudo dnf install bc 

### Arch Linux (pacman) ### 

sudo pacman -S bc

Advanced users might prefer building Bc from the source. Fetch the source code from the GNU website, extract it, navigate to the extracted directory, and execute the standard trio: ./configure, make, and sudo make install.

Arithmetic Operations

The journey into the world of Bc begins with the basics: arithmetic operations. With Bc, you’re not just limited to elementary addition and subtraction; you can perform sophisticated calculations involving multiplication, division, and more. Let’s start with the addition:

echo "10 + 5" | bc

The above command prompts Bc to calculate the sum of 10 and 5. Simple, right? Now, let’s explore subtraction:

echo "20 - 8" | bc

You’re getting the hang of it! Next, multiplication:

echo "12 * 6" | bc

Lastly, division:

echo "50 / 2" | bc

Advanced Mathematical Functions

As you gain confidence with Bc’s elementary operations, it’s time to delve into its more sophisticated capabilities. Bc plays host to a myriad of advanced mathematical functions, making it a go-to choice for scientific calculations. Think of trigonometric functions like sine, cosine, and tangent. To compute the sine of 30 degrees:

echo "s(30)" | bc -l

Did you notice the -l flag? It’s essential when dealing with trigonometric functions, as it loads the math library required for these computations. Don’t worry, Bc’s got you covered for logarithms and exponentiation too:

echo "l(100)" | bc -l
echo "e(2)" | bc -l

Variable Assignment and Manipulation

In the real world, calculations aren’t isolated; they often involve variables. Bc allows you to assign values to variables and use them in mathematical expressions. This capability becomes immensely useful when dealing with intricate calculations or scripting tasks.

Let’s assign a value to a variable radius and compute the area of a circle:

area=3.14 * $radius * $radius
echo $area | bc

Conditional Statements and Control Flow

Bc’s prowess extends beyond mere calculations. It lets you weave logic into your scripts using conditional statements like if and else. This is where Bc truly transforms into a scripting language.

Consider this scenario: you want to determine if a given number is even or odd. Bc can help you achieve this:

if (num % 2 == 0) {
print "Even"
} else {
print "Odd"

Scripting with Bc

Up until now, you’ve witnessed glimpses of Bc’s scripting capabilities. Let’s now embark on a journey of crafting efficient scripts using Bc. Imagine you need a script to convert temperatures from Celsius to Fahrenheit. Bc can make this a breeze:

echo "Enter temperature in Celsius: "
read celsius
fahrenheit = celsius * 9 / 5 + 32
print "Temperature in Fahrenheit: ", fahrenheit

Tips and Best Practices

Precision is the cornerstone of accurate calculations, and Bc provides you with the means to control it. By adjusting the scale variable, you can dictate the level of precision in your results. For instance, if you’re dealing with decimals, set scale=2 for two decimal places.

In your scripts, strive for readability. Meaningful variable names, comments, and structured code will not only save you from future confusion but also make collaboration smoother.

Resources and Further Learning

The journey of mastering the Bc command doesn’t end here. To delve even deeper, consult the official GNU Bc manual for comprehensive documentation. Additionally, online tutorials and forums can offer insights into advanced scripting techniques and real-world applications.


In the labyrinth of Linux commands, the Bc command stands as a remarkable tool that transcends mere arithmetic calculations. Its prowess as an arbitrary precision calculator and scripting language empowers you to tackle complex mathematical problems and automate intricate tasks. With this guide as your companion, you’re now equipped to navigate the realms of Bc confidently. So go forth, explore, script, and calculate with precision – for the world of Bc awaits your command.


r00t is a seasoned Linux system administrator with a wealth of experience in the field. Known for his contributions to, r00t has authored numerous tutorials and guides, helping users navigate the complexities of Linux systems. His expertise spans across various Linux distributions, including Ubuntu, CentOS, and Debian. r00t's work is characterized by his ability to simplify complex concepts, making Linux more accessible to users of all skill levels. His dedication to the Linux community and his commitment to sharing knowledge makes him a respected figure in the field.
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