EXEC(3) BSD Library Functions Manual EXEC(3)NAME
execl, execlp, execle, exect, execv, execvp, execvP — execute a file
Standard C Library (libc, -lc)
extern char **environ;
execl(const char *path, const char *arg, ... /*, (char *)0 */);
execlp(const char *file, const char *arg, ... /*, (char *)0 */);
execle(const char *path, const char *arg, ...
/*, (char *)0, char *const envp */);
exect(const char *path, char *const argv, char *const envp);
execv(const char *path, char *const argv);
execvp(const char *file, char *const argv);
execvP(const char *file, const char *search_path, char *const argv);
The exec family of functions replaces the current process image with a
new process image. The functions described in this manual page are
front-ends for the function execve(2). (See the manual page for
execve(2) for detailed information about the replacement of the current
The initial argument for these functions is the pathname of a file which
is to be executed.
The const char *arg and subsequent ellipses in the execl(), execlp(), and
execle() functions can be thought of as arg0, arg1, ..., argn. Together
they describe a list of one or more pointers to null-terminated strings
that represent the argument list available to the executed program. The
first argument, by convention, should point to the file name associated
with the file being executed. The list of arguments must be terminated
by a NULL pointer.
The exect(), execv(), execvp(), and execvP() functions provide an array
of pointers to null-terminated strings that represent the argument list
available to the new program. The first argument, by convention, should
point to the file name associated with the file being executed. The
array of pointers must be terminated by a NULL pointer.
The execle() and exect() functions also specify the environment of the
executed process by following the NULL pointer that terminates the list
of arguments in the argument list or the pointer to the argv array with
an additional argument. This additional argument is an array of pointers
to null-terminated strings and must be terminated by a NULL pointer. The
other functions take the environment for the new process image from the
external variable environ in the current process.
Some of these functions have special semantics.
The functions execlp(), execvp(), and execvP() will duplicate the actions
of the shell in searching for an executable file if the specified file
name does not contain a slash “/” character. For execlp() and execvp(),
search path is the path specified in the environment by “PATH” variable.
If this variable is not specified, the default path is set according to
the _PATH_DEFPATH definition in <paths.h>, which is set to
“/usr/bin:/bin”. For execvP(), the search path is specified as an argu‐
ment to the function. In addition, certain errors are treated specially.
If an error is ambiguous (for simplicity, we shall consider all errors
except ENOEXEC as being ambiguous here, although only the critical error
EACCES is really ambiguous), then these functions will act as if they
stat the file to determine whether the file exists and has suitable exe‐
cute permissions. If it does, they will return immediately with the
global variable errno restored to the value set by execve(). Otherwise,
the search will be continued. If the search completes without performing
a successful execve() or terminating due to an error, these functions
will return with the global variable errno set to EACCES or ENOENT
according to whether at least one file with suitable execute permissions
If the header of a file is not recognized (the attempted execve()
returned ENOEXEC), these functions will execute the shell with the path
of the file as its first argument. (If this attempt fails, no further
searching is done.)
The function exect() executes a file with the program tracing facilities
enabled (see ptrace(2)).
If any of the exec() functions returns, an error will have occurred. The
return value is -1, and the global variable errno will be set to indicate
/bin/sh The shell.
Historically, the default path for the execlp() and execvp() functions
was “:/bin:/usr/bin”. This was changed to place the current directory
last to enhance system security.
The behavior of execlp() and execvp() when errors occur while attempting
to execute the file is not quite historic practice, and has not tradi‐
tionally been documented and is not specified by the POSIX standard.
Traditionally, the functions execlp() and execvp() ignored all errors
except for the ones described above and ETXTBSY, upon which they retried
after sleeping for several seconds, and ENOMEM and E2BIG, upon which they
returned. They now return for ETXTBSY, and determine existence and exe‐
cutability more carefully. In particular, EACCES for inaccessible direc‐
tories in the path prefix is no longer confused with EACCES for files
with unsuitable execute permissions. In 4.4BSD, they returned upon all
errors except EACCES, ENOENT, ENOEXEC and ETXTBSY. This was inferior to
the traditional error handling, since it breaks the ignoring of errors
for path prefixes and only improves the handling of the unusual ambiguous
error EFAULT and the unusual error EIO. The behaviour was changed to
match the behaviour of sh(1).
The execl(), execle(), execlp(), execvp() and execvP() functions may fail
and set errno for any of the errors specified for the library functions
execve(2) and malloc(3).
The exect() and execv() functions may fail and set errno for any of the
errors specified for the library function execve(2).
SEE ALSOsh(1), execve(2), fork(2), ktrace(2), ptrace(2), environ(7)STANDARDS
The execl(), execv(), execle(), execlp() and execvp() functions conform
to IEEE Std 1003.1-1988 (“POSIX.1”). The execvP() function first
appeared in FreeBSD 5.2.
BSD January 24, 1994 BSD