MAN Solaris - mktemp (1)



mktemp - make temporary filename


Environment Variables
Exit Status
See Also


mktemp [-dtqu] [-p directory] [template]




The mktemp utility makes a temporary filename. To do this, mktemp takes the specified filename template and overwrites a portion of it to create a unique filename. See OPERANDS.

The template is passed to mkdtemp(3C) for directories or mkstemp(3C) for ordinary files.

If mktemp can successfully generate a unique filename, the file (or directory) is created with file permissions such that it is only readable and writable by its owner (unless the -u flag is given) and the filename is printed to standard output.

mktemp allows shell scripts to safely use temporary files. Traditionally, many shell scripts take the name of the program with the PID as a suffix and used that as a temporary filename. This kind of naming scheme is predictable and the race condition it creates is easy for an attacker to win. A safer, though still inferior approach is to make a temporary directory using the same naming scheme. While this guarantees that a temporary file is not subverted, it still allows a simple denial of service attack. Use mktemp instead.


The following options are supported:


Make a directory instead of a file.

-p directory

Use the specified directory as a prefix when generating the temporary filename. The directory is overridden by the user’s TMPDIR environment variable if it is set. This option implies the -t flag.


Fail silently if an error occurs. This is useful if a script does not want error output to go to standard error.


Generate a path rooted in a temporary directory. This directory is chosen as follows: If the user’s TMPDIR environment variable is set, the directory contained therein is used. Otherwise, if the -p flag was given the specified directory is used. If none of the above apply, /tmp is used. In this mode, the template (if specified) should be a directory component (as opposed to a full path) and thus should not contain any forward slashes.


Operate in unsafe mode. The temp file is unlinked before mktemp exits. This is slightly better than mktemp(3C), but still introduces a race condition. Use of this option is discouraged.


The following operands are supported:


template can be any filename with one or more Xs appended to it, for example /tmp/tfile.XXXXXX.

If template is not specified, a default of tmp.XXXXXX is used and the -t flag is implied.


Example 1 Using mktemp

The following example illustrates a simple use of mktemp in a sh(1) script. In this example, the script quits if it cannot get a safe temporary file.

TMPFILE=‘mktemp /tmp/example.XXXXXX‘
if [ -z "$TMPFILE" ]; then exit 1; fi
echo "program output" >> $TMPFILE

Example 2 Using mktemp to Support TMPDIR

The following example uses mktemp to support for a user’s TMPDIR environment variable:

TMPFILE=‘mktemp -t example.XXXXXX‘
if [ -z "$TMPFILE" ]; then exit 1; fi
echo "program output" >> $TMPFILE

Example 3 Using mktemp Without Specifying the Name of the Temporary File

The following example uses mktemp without specifying the name of the temporary file. In this case the -t flag is implied.

if [ -z "$TMPFILE" ]; then exit 1; fi
echo "program output" >> $TMPFILE

Example 4 Using mktemp with a Default Temporary Directory Other than /tmp

The following example creates the temporary file in /extra/tmp unless the user’s TMPDIR environment variable specifies otherwise:

TMPFILE=‘mktemp -p /extra/tmp example.XXXXX‘
if [ -z "$TMPFILE" ]; then exit 1; fi
echo "program output" >> $TMPFILE

Example 5 Using mktemp to Remove a File

The following example attempts to create two temporary files. If creation of the second temporary file fails, mktemp removes the first file before exiting:

TMP1=‘mktemp -t example.1.XXXXXX‘
if [ -z "$TMP1" ]; then exit 1; fi
TMP2=‘mktemp -t example.2.XXXXXX‘
if [ -z "$TMP2" ]; then
       rm -f $TMP1
       exit 1

Example 6 Using mktemp

The following example does not exit if mktemp is unable to create the file. That part of the script has been protected.

TMPFILE=‘mktemp -q -t example.XXXXXX‘
if [ ! -z "$TMPFILE" ]
       # Safe to use $TMPFILE in this block
       echo data > $TMPFILE
       rm -f $TMPFILE


See environ(5) for descriptions of the following environment variables that affect the execution of mktemp with the -t option: TMPDIR.


The following exit values are returned:


Successful completion.


An error occurred.


See attributes(5) for descriptions of the following attributes:



sh(1), mkdtemp(3C), mkstemp(3C), attributes(5), environ(5)


The mktemp utility appeared in OpenBSD 2.1. The Solaris implementation uses only as many ‘Xs’ as are significant for mktemp(3C) and mkstemp(3C).

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SunOS 5.11 mktemp (1) 10 Jan 2008
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