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Navigate & View Files in Linux with Cat, Less, Tail & Head

Cat, less, tail, and head commands in Linux are all powerful command line tools that can be used to navigate and view files in a Linux operating system.

cat

The cat command is used to display the contents of a file in the terminal. It’s a simple command that can be used to quickly view the contents of a file without the need for a separate text editor. For example, to view the contents of a file named “example.txt,” you would use the following command:

cat example.txt

less

The less command is similar to the cat command, but it allows you to scroll through the contents of a file. This can be useful when working with large files or when you want to navigate through a file more easily. For example, to view the contents of a file named “example.txt” using the less command, you would use the following command:

less example.txt

tail

The tail command is used to display the last few lines of a file. This can be useful when working with log files or other files that are constantly being updated. For example, to view the last 10 lines of a file named “example.txt,” you would use the following command:

tail -10 example.txt

head

The head command is the opposite of tail, it is used to display the first few lines of a file. This can be useful when working with large files and you want to quickly view the beginning of the file. For example, to view the first 10 lines of a file named “example.txt,” you would use the following command:

head -10 example.txt

Examples

# cat command:
# Displays the contents of file.txt
cat file.txt
# Combines the contents of file1.txt and file2.txt into a new file named combined.txt
cat file1.txt file2.txt > combined.txt

# less command:
# Allows scrolling through the contents of file.txt
less file.txt 

# tail command:
# Continuously display the last lines of logfile.log as they are added
tail -f logfile.log
# Display the last 100 lines of file.txt
tail -n 100 file.txt

# head command:
# Display the first 15 lines of file.txt
head -n 15 file.txt

5 Tips:

  1. Use cat to quickly view the contents of a file without needing to open a text editor.
  2. Use less to navigate through large files more easily.
  3. Use tail to monitor log files or other files that are constantly being updated.
  4. Use head to quickly view the beginning of a large file.
  5. Remember that these commands can be combined with other command line tools like grep to search for specific text in a file.

In summary, Linux, cat, less, tail, and head are all powerful command line tools that can be used to navigate and manipulate files in a Linux operating system. They can be used to quickly view the contents of files, scroll through large files, and display the last or first few lines of a file.

Vim

If you’re looking for a more serious code viewer/editor then give Vim a try. Vim is a powerful text editor that is commonly used in Linux and Unix-based operating systems. It is known for its efficient navigation and editing capabilities, as well as its steep learning curve. Vim can be used in both command-line and graphical mode, and it can be used to edit any type of text file.

Challenge:

Try using the cat, less, tail and head command in combination with grep command to find a specific word or pattern in a file.

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