NICE(1P) POSIX Programmer's Manual NICE(1P)PROLOG
This manual page is part of the POSIX Programmer's Manual. The Linux
implementation of this interface may differ (consult the corresponding
Linux manual page for details of Linux behavior), or the interface may
not be implemented on Linux.
NAMEnice — invoke a utility with an altered nice value
SYNOPSISnice [−n increment] utility [argument...]
The nice utility shall invoke a utility, requesting that it be run with
a different nice value (see the Base Definitions volume of
POSIX.1‐2008, Section 3.240, Nice Value). With no options, the exe‐
cuted utility shall be run with a nice value that is some implementa‐
tion-defined quantity greater than or equal to the nice value of the
current process. If the user lacks appropriate privileges to affect the
nice value in the requested manner, the nice utility shall not affect
the nice value; in this case, a warning message may be written to stan‐
dard error, but this shall not prevent the invocation of utility or
affect the exit status.
The nice utility shall conform to the Base Definitions volume of
POSIX.1‐2008, Section 12.2, Utility Syntax Guidelines.
The following option is supported:
A positive or negative decimal integer which shall have the
same effect on the execution of the utility as if the utility
had called the nice() function with the numeric value of the
The following operands shall be supported:
utility The name of a utility that is to be invoked. If the utility
operand names any of the special built-in utilities in Sec‐
tion 2.14, Special Built-In Utilities, the results are unde‐
argument Any string to be supplied as an argument when invoking the
utility named by the utility operand.
The following environment variables shall affect the execution of nice:
LANG Provide a default value for the internationalization vari‐
ables that are unset or null. (See the Base Definitions vol‐
ume of POSIX.1‐2008, Section 8.2, Internationalization Vari‐
ables for the precedence of internationalization variables
used to determine the values of locale categories.)
LC_ALL If set to a non-empty string value, override the values of
all the other internationalization variables.
LC_CTYPE Determine the locale for the interpretation of sequences of
bytes of text data as characters (for example, single-byte as
opposed to multi-byte characters in arguments).
Determine the locale that should be used to affect the format
and contents of diagnostic messages written to standard
NLSPATH Determine the location of message catalogs for the processing
PATH Determine the search path used to locate the utility to be
invoked. See the Base Definitions volume of POSIX.1‐2008,
Chapter 8, Environment Variables.
The standard error shall be used only for diagnostic messages.
If utility is invoked, the exit status of nice shall be the exit status
of utility; otherwise, the nice utility shall exit with one of the fol‐
1‐125 An error occurred in the nice utility.
126 The utility specified by utility was found but could not be
127 The utility specified by utility could not be found.
CONSEQUENCES OF ERRORS
The following sections are informative.
The only guaranteed portable uses of this utility are:
Run utility with the default higher or equal nice value.
nice −n <positive integer> utility
Run utility with a higher nice value.
On some implementations they have no discernible effect on the invoked
utility and on some others they are exactly equivalent.
Historical systems have frequently supported the <positive integer> up
to 20. Since there is no error penalty associated with guessing a num‐
ber that is too high, users without access to the system conformance
document (to see what limits are actually in place) could use the his‐
torical 1 to 20 range or attempt to use very large numbers if the job
should be truly low priority.
The nice value of a process can be displayed using the command:
ps −o nice
The command, env, nice, nohup, time, and xargs utilities have been
specified to use exit code 127 if an error occurs so that applications
can distinguish ``failure to find a utility'' from ``invoked utility
exited with an error indication''. The value 127 was chosen because it
is not commonly used for other meanings; most utilities use small val‐
ues for ``normal error conditions'' and the values above 128 can be
confused with termination due to receipt of a signal. The value 126 was
chosen in a similar manner to indicate that the utility could be found,
but not invoked. Some scripts produce meaningful error messages differ‐
entiating the 126 and 127 cases. The distinction between exit codes 126
and 127 is based on KornShell practice that uses 127 when all attempts
to exec the utility fail with [ENOENT], and uses 126 when any attempt
to exec the utility fails for any other reason.
The 4.3 BSD version of nice does not check whether increment is a valid
decimal integer. The command nice −x utility, for example, would be
treated the same as the command nice −−1 utility. If the user does not
have appropriate privileges, this results in a ``permission denied''
error. This is considered a bug.
When a user without appropriate privileges gives a negative increment,
System V treats it like the command nice −0 utility, while 4.3 BSD
writes a ``permission denied'' message and does not run the utility.
The standard specifies the System V behavior together with an optional
BSD-style ``permission denied'' message.
The C shell has a built-in version of nice that has a different inter‐
face from the one described in this volume of POSIX.1‐2008.
The term ``utility'' is used, rather than ``command'', to highlight the
fact that shell compound commands, pipelines, and so on, cannot be
used. Special built-ins also cannot be used. However, ``utility''
includes user application programs and shell scripts, not just utili‐
ties defined in this volume of POSIX.1‐2008.
Historical implementations of nice provide a nice value range of 40 or
41 discrete steps, with the default nice value being the midpoint of
that range. By default, they raise the nice value of the executed util‐
ity by 10.
Some historical documentation states that the increment value must be
within a fixed range. This is misleading; the valid increment values on
any invocation are determined by the current process nice value, which
is not always the default.
The definition of nice value is not intended to suggest that all pro‐
cesses in a system have priorities that are comparable. Scheduling pol‐
icy extensions such as the realtime priorities in the System Interfaces
volume of POSIX.1‐2008 make the notion of a single underlying priority
for all scheduling policies problematic. Some implementations may
implement the nice-related features to affect all processes on the sys‐
tem, others to affect just the general time-sharing activities implied
by this volume of POSIX.1‐2008, and others may have no effect at all.
Because of the use of ``implementation-defined'' in nice and renice, a
wide range of implementation strategies are possible.
Earlier versions of this standard allowed a −increment option. This
form is no longer specified by POSIX.1‐2008 but may be present in some
Chapter 2, Shell Command Language, renice
The Base Definitions volume of POSIX.1‐2008, Section 3.240, Nice Value,
Chapter 8, Environment Variables, Section 12.2, Utility Syntax Guide‐
The System Interfaces volume of POSIX.1‐2008, nice()COPYRIGHT
Portions of this text are reprinted and reproduced in electronic form
from IEEE Std 1003.1, 2013 Edition, Standard for Information Technology
-- Portable Operating System Interface (POSIX), The Open Group Base
Specifications Issue 7, Copyright (C) 2013 by the Institute of Electri‐
cal and Electronics Engineers, Inc and The Open Group. (This is
POSIX.1-2008 with the 2013 Technical Corrigendum 1 applied.) In the
event of any discrepancy between this version and the original IEEE and
The Open Group Standard, the original IEEE and The Open Group Standard
is the referee document. The original Standard can be obtained online
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