POSIX explained

POSIX, an acronym for "Portable Operating System Interface", is a family of standards specified by the IEEE for maintaining compatibility between operating systems. POSIX defines the application programming interface (API), along with command line shells and utility interfaces, for software compatible with variants of Unix and other operating systems.[1]


Originally, the name "POSIX" referred to IEEE Std 1003.1-1988, released in 1988. The family of POSIX standards is formally designated as IEEE 1003 and the international standard name is ISO/IEC 9945.

The standards, formerly known as IEEE-IX, emerged from a project that began circa 1985. Richard Stallman suggested the name POSIX in response to an IEEE request for a memorable name.[2]


The POSIX specifications for Unix-like operating system environments originally consisted of a single document for the core programming interface, but eventually grew to 19 separate documents (for example, POSIX.1, POSIX.2 etc) http://www.pasc.org/standing/sd11.html. The standardized user command line and scripting interface were based on the Korn shell. Many user-level programs, services, and utilities including awk, echo, ed were also standardized, along with required program-level services including basic I/O (file, terminal, and network) services. POSIX also defines a standard threading library API which is supported by most modern operating systems. Nowadays, most of POSIX parts are combined into a single standard, IEEE Std 1003.1-2008, also known as POSIX.1-2008.

, POSIX documentation is divided in two parts:

The development of the POSIX standard takes place in the Austin Group, a joint working group linking the Open Group and the ISO organization.


Parts before 1997

Before 1997, POSIX comprised several standards:





Versions after 1997

After 1997, the Austin Group developed the POSIX revisions. The specifications are known under the name Single UNIX Specification, before they become a POSIX standard when formally approved by the ISO.


POSIX.1-2001 or IEEE Std 1003.1-2001 equates to the Single UNIX Specification version 3[4]

This standard consisted of:

POSIX.1-2001 (with two TCs)

IEEE Std 1003.1-2004 involved a minor update of POSIX.1-2001. It incorporated two technical corrigenda. Its contents are available on the web.[5]


POSIX.1-2008 or IEEE Std 1003.1-2008 represents the current version.[6] [7] A free online copy is available.[8]

This standard consists of:


512- vs 1024-byte blocks

POSIX mandates 512-byte block sizes for the df and du utilities, reflecting the default size of blocks on disks. When Richard Stallman and the GNU team were implementing POSIX for the GNU operating system, they objected to this on the grounds that most people think in terms of 1024 byte (or 1 KiB) blocks. The environmental variable POSIXLY_CORRECT was introduced to force the standards-compliant behaviour.[9] The variable POSIX_ME_HARDER was also discussed[10] and was implemented in a few packages[11] before being obsoleted by POSIXLY_CORRECT.

POSIX-oriented operating systems

Depending upon the degree of compliance with the standards, one can classify operating systems as fully or partly POSIX compatible. Certified products can be found at the IEEE's website.[12]

Fully POSIX-compliant

The following operating systems conform (i.e., are 100% compliant) to one or more of the various POSIX standards.

Mostly POSIX-compliant

The following, while not officially certified as POSIX compatible, conform in large part:

POSIX for Windows

POSIX for OS/2

Mostly POSIX compliant environments for OS/2:


Partially POSIX compliant environments for DOS include:

Compliant via compatibility feature

The following are not officially certified as POSIX compatible, but they conform in large part to the standards by implementing POSIX support via some sort of compatibility feature, usually translation libraries, or a layer atop the kernel. Without these features, they are usually noncompliant.

See also

External links

Notes and References

  1. Web site: POSIX. Standards. IEEE.
  2. Web site: 2006-02-02. POSIX 1003.1 FAQ Version 1.12. 2006-07-16.
  3. Web site: POSIX. NIST.
  4. The Open Group announces completion of the joint revision to POSIX and the Single UNIX Specification. 2009-07-26. January 30, 2002. The Open Group.
  5. .
  6. Web site: Base Specifications, Issue 7. 2009-07-27. The Open Group.
  7. Web site: The Austin Common Standards Revision Group. 2009-07-27. The Open Group.
  8. .
  9. .
  10. .
  11. .
  12. Web site: POSIX Certification. IEEE.
  13. Web site: Leopard OS Foundations Overview. Leopard Technology Series for Developers. Apple. 14 July 2011.
  14. .
  15. Web site: POSIX utilities. Schweik. FreeBSD.
  16. Web site: 2010-10-18. OpenVOS: Stratus Virtual Operating System. Stratus Technologies.
  17. Web site: APE — ANSI/POSIX Environment. Bell Labs. Plan 9.
  18. Web site: POSIX Compatibility. MS Windows NT Workstation Resource Kit. Microsoft.