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Development Tools Console Foundations Processes Pausing and Resuming

why would you send jobs to the background?

For example, I understand that nano & would send nano to the background, but why would you want to do this?

Thank you in advance!

1 Answer

Alex Koumparos
Alex Koumparos
Python Development Techdegree Student 36,862 Points

Hi Mark,

We need to distinguish between appending & as you describe, which sends an active job to the background (i.e., it carries on running) and pressing CTRL-z to stop (pause) an active job.

Nano is probably not the best example for illustrating why you would send something active to the background with &, since you would expect to use it interactively (i.e., in the foreground). Instead, think of something that would be typically non-interactive, like a service that runs continuously but unattended (e.g., a server) or a task that once started will take a while to finish and you want to get on with something else until it finishes without it blocking your terminal session (e.g., a large file transfer). For what it's worth, top was a bit of an odd choice to demo & since top automatically pauses when loaded with &.

However, nano might be a candidate for using CTRL-z to temporarily pause a job you're working on. You might be in the middle of typing up a file in your nano editor and you realise that you just need to check something, like 'what were the permissions on that file I was writing about?' You could quickly CTRL-z to get back out to the console (sending nano to the background), check the file, e.g. with ls -l, then type fg to go right back to where you were in nano.

Hope that helps,