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ArcShell is a shell scripting, automation, and monitoring framework created by Ethan Post.

It supports both Bash and Korn shells and contains more than 30 modules that help you build amazing solutions. It can be up and running in a few minutes of time.

ArcShell is unique and unlike other Bash frameworks. It is designed to be used as a flexible distributed automation and monitoring development platform. It is suitable for both individuals and companies of any size.

Please join the announcements and support email lists for updates. I am on Twitter. You can also email me at Chat channels will be created when needed.

Documentation and updates uploaded every week. Most of it will be available before the end of May 2019.


Icons designs by SmashIcons and available from Flaticon.


The following example is the simplest method of installing ArcShell.

# Make sure you are in the bash shell.
$ echo $0

# You can put ArcShell anywhere you want.
$ mkdir -p "${HOME}/app" && cd "${HOME}/app"

# ArcShell home will be in ${HOME}/app/arcshell when this completes.
$ bash < <(curl -Ss

ArcShell can also be installed manually.

# Instead of running the script return the contents to the terminal.
curl -Ss 

# Now run each command to install ArcShell.

The install log is written to your "${HOME}" directory.

Try sourcing in the .arcshell file.

# This sources ArcShell into your command line environment. 
. "${HOME}/.arcshell"
# You shouldn't see any errors! It might take a second or two to load.


Please read this. These points will get you oriented with the product before getting into configuration.

My Development Environment: ArcShell is developed in Bash using Sublime Text on Windows. The Window's file system is shared to a VirtualBox Ubuntu host. You will see this often in my videos.

Prerequisites: ArcShell has few, if any, prerequisites. You may need to install missing programs like awk or nawk, sed, bc, and perl. ArcShell does not and need to be installed as root in most cases.

Email: Ideally your servers have outbound email capability. If native email support is not already configured I suggest you try SendGrid which is easy to configure in ArcShell. If you require support for other options let us know what they are.

SSH: Your servers should support SSH. ArcShell can help you manage these connections. However, ArcShell is able to operate without it.

Primary vs. Remote Nodes: ArcShell is typically maintained on a single node and then deployed to your remote nodes. ArcShell deploys a copy of itself. There are many ways to manage deployments.

Loading ArcShell: After you install ArcShell you will need to load the framework into your command line environment or into your script. This is done using the .arcshell profile file which is in your ${HOME} directory.

# Load ArcShell like this. This file is re-created anytime you run setup.
. ${HOME}/.arcshell
# It will only load once. To force a re-load set arcHome to nothing.
. ${HOME}/.arcshell

Truthy values: ArcShell makes use of something called truthy variables. Many configuration variables support the use of truthy values. Here are a few examples.

# A limited range of cron expressions are allowed.
foo="* * * * *"
# 1 is true, 0 false.
# Most forms or True/False,Yes/No are allowable.

Look at the module for all of the options.

ArcShell Homes: There are three ArcShell homes.

Name Path About
Delivered ${arcHome} This is the directory ArcShell is installed in.
Global ${arcHome}/global or ${arcGlobalHome} This is the directory where you will make 99% of your changes and where your files go.
User ${arcHome}/user or ${arcUserHome} This directory is not deployed to other nodes.

We will see how these can be used later.

Disk Space: ArcShell doesn't take up much space initially. However, data collection tasks will eventually require additional resources. You should have at least 2-4 Gigabytes of space available for an ArcShell installation.

Configuration: The two main configuration files are arcshell.cfg and setup.cfg.

File About
./config/arcshell/arcshell.cfg Can be present in any of the three ArcShell homes. Is loaded (and run) whenever you source in ArcShell.
./config/arcshell/setup.cfg Can be present in any of the three ArcShell homes. Is loaded (and run) whenever you run setup.

In both cases all files found are loaded and they are loaded in the following order: delivered, global, then user.

ArcShell Daemon: The script which acts as the daemon is ${arcUserHome}/ This file also gets rebuilt each time you run setup. Run -help for some help on starting and stopping the daemon process.

After you install ArcShell you can add a single cronjob calling -autostart to make sure the daemon is restarted between server reboots if it was running prior to that event.

Configuration Objects: ArcShell has a powerful and flexible configuration file structure. You will want to take a close look at the following once you get ArcShell installed.

Location About
./config/arcshell Stores the archell.cfg and setup.cfg files.
./config/keywords Keywords are used to route messages to different delivery mechanisms. For example "warning" may send email but not send an SMS message.
./config/contact_groups Contact groups determine who messages go to, how they get there, and when. They are very powerful and yet very easy to configure.
./config/alert_types Alert types set up recurring notifications. Each alert type has two phases of alerting which can be configured.
./schedules This folder contains scheduled tasks which are just .sh scripts. ArcShell provides a number of out-of-the-box solutions. You can also create your own schedules and add your scripts to them.

In each of the cases above the configuration can exist in one or more of the three ArcShell homes. In some cases only the first file found is loaded or run and in others all three files are loaded and run in order. This is dependent on the code making use of the item.


Configure the arcshell.cfg file.

# Copy the delivered .cfg file to the global configuration directory.
cp "${arcHome}/config/arcshell/arcshell.cfg" "${arcGlobalHome}/config/arcshell/"

# Edit the file. Instructions for each parameter are in the file.
vi "${arcGlobalHome}/config/arcshell/arcshell.cfg"

# Comment or delete any lines you didn't explicity set. Not required but a good idea.


  • The arcshell.cfg files are loaded in the following order: delivered, global, user.
  • Any values defined in the globlal file take precedence over the delivered file.
  • Any values defined in the user file take precedence over the global and delivered file.
  • If user config changes are needed, try to use code to make those changes at the global level.

Configure the 'admins' contact group.

# ArcShell has already copied the default 'admins.cfg' file to your global home.

# You probably only need to set 'group_emails' at this point. The other values can be set later.
vi "${arcHome}/config/contact_groups/admins.cfg" 

# You can add other groups by adding other files to this directory.


  • ArcShell loads the first file found for each contact group.
  • ArcShell looks for files in the following order: user, global, delivered.

Try sending a message using send_message.

# This returns a lot of information about your current settings related to messaging.

# This command tails the ArcShell application log file. This should help you determine if an email is sent.

# If outbound email is working this should result in an email message.
echo "ArcShell Test Email" | send_message -email "My First Test Email"

# Quit following the log.

There are a number of conditions which will prevent the immediate delivery of a message.

  • No default groups.
  • Default groups are not enabled.
  • Message queuing is enabled.
  • Groups are on hold.
  • Delivery option for keyword does not allow email.
  • Outbound email is not configured for the server.


Create an SSH connection.

The SSH connection module is used to register SSH connections with ArcShell.

# This creates a new connection. If the connection already exists it updates it.
ssh_add -alias "foo" -tags "dev,web"

# The result of running the above is a new global configuration file for the connection.
vi "${arcGlobalHome}/config/ssh_connections/foo@server.cfg"

# You can optionally create more connections by creating the .cfg file directly.

# Run ssh_connections_help for more infomation about the SSH connections package.


  • You can create the .cfg files manually instead of using ssh_add.
  • If a configuration file exists within more than one scope (global and user for example), ArcShell loads the user file.
  • Try to keep most of your configuration within the global scope.

Install ArcShell on the remote node using SSH.

# Creates a deployment package from the local copy of ArcShell.

# Uses the package we just created to install ArcShell on the remote node.
arc_install -ssh "foo" -arcshell_home "/home/foo/app/arcshell"

# Run arc_help for more information about this module.

Sync changes to the remote node using SSH.

# Uses rsync to sync the local ArcShell home to the remote ArcShell home.
# The local ArcShell user home is not included in the sync.
arc_sync -ssh "foo"


  • arc_sync uses rsync to sync the current ArcShell home to one or more remote nodes.
  • arc_update uses an ArcShell package (created with arc_pkg) to do the same but uses the specified package instead.
  • You can also use source control systems to deploy changes provided you ignore changes to the ArcShell user home.

Stop and start the ArcShell daemon.

# Starts the daemon.
nohup start &

# Stops the daemon. stop

# Use this command to see the other options. -help

Try the ArcShell menu.

This menu provides some basic options to explore ArcShell.



Spend some time looking at the two SSH related modules. One is used to manage your SSH connections. The other is used to run SSH commands against one or more nodes.

Now is a also good time to review keywords, contact groups, and alert types.

The ArcShell task scheduler can be used to schedule tasks and deploy those scheduled tasks to your remote nodes. Review the list of delivered scheduled tasks here. These scripts can be used a quick model to begin building your own custom solutions.

ArcShell makes it easy to:


Repository for open-source ArcShell automation framework.




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