Thursday, January 17, 2008

Escape Characters

I know this is going to be a confusing year, because my first post of this year is on a topic I don't really understand.

For some time now I have been confused what the correct method to escape certain characters from being interpreted when I try to print them out.  Let's say I want to print this line:

< & >

I can't just say

echo < & >

Because I'll get an error that way (try it yourself if you don't believe me).  I have to escape those special characters.  To do that I can use the caret (^).

echo ^< ^& ^>

Nice and easy.  But then if I want to print this line:


The batch interpreter does something really baffling.  If I'm doing it from command line, I can escape it with a caret like other special characters.


But it I do it from inside a batch file, that no longer works.  I have to escape the % not with a caret, but with another %.


Confuse the hell out of me, I tell you.  So now I live by these rules:

  1. Always escape special characters using a caret in front of the special character.
  2. Except when you are in a batch file and need to escape a %, then use a %%.

I hope that helps some of you.  Oh wait, nobody reads this blog but me.  Oh, well.


edporteous said...

Thanks for that - it really helped.

slow tick said...

thanks for the helpful hint

Unknown said...

Indeed, it helped :D

Unknown said...

Helped me too

Arif Sukoco said...

Thanks for the comments guys. I'm really glad people find this helpful :)

Faux said...

Woohoo. Thanks for the help, this has been bugging me for a while.

Rahul said...

Thanks... Just what I was looking for.

chalc said...


Preston said...

Exactly what I was looking for. Thanks!

echo %%PATH%%

Abdiel said...

Try: Hello World!!
echo Hello World!!
¡Doesn't work!
Okay. This should:
echo Hello World^!^!

echo Hello World^^!^^!


Vivek said...


BTW, @Abdiel echo Hello World!! works fine for me. {XP, SP3}

Anonymous said...

Thanks! Here's a question I am trying to write a string subsitution and my string contains an equals character which throws out my substitution. Example:

where %min% = 999

set str=!str:initial-heap-size="100M"=initial-heap-size="%min%M"!

It finds my string "initial-heap-size="100M""

But reads everything after the first equals sign as the replacement string. Example:


Escaping equals with caret has no effect...

Unknown said...

Dude thanks sooooo much i've been trying to find this out for days now!


Vincenzo said...

hi all
have the following envirnment variable to be used in a batch file: %1394CAMERA%. The problem is that %1 is read as first parameters on the command line.. how can i do?
thanks!!!! :)

Arif Sukoco said...

Vincenzo, you can use !1394CAMERA! if you enable delayed expansion.

set 1394CAMERA=Hello
echo !1394CAMERA!

Feliponcho said...

I tried to use scape characters inside a replacement statement and it doesn't seem to work. Any idea?


What I basically want to do is to remove "c:\somefolder" from the PATH environment variable.