The Unix shell is a powerful, ubiquitous, and reviled tool
for managing computer systems. The shell has been largely
ignored by academia and industry. While many replacement
shells have been proposed, the Unix shell persists. Two re-
cent threads of formal and practical research on the shell
enable new approaches. We can help manage the shell’s essential shortcomings (dynamism, power, and abstruseness)
and address its inessential ones. Improving the shell holds
much promise for development, ops, and data processing.