Linux text view command and its options (cat, head, tail)

Time:2020-11-28

Linux system built-in commands can be queried in the following two ways: “cat — help” or “man cat”.

The common options and official explanations of the cat command are as follows:

cat file_ Name displays all the contents of the file

cat -b file_ Name displays the non empty line content of the file

cat -E file_ Name displays $at the end of each line of the file, which is often used for pipeline functions

cat -n file_ Name displays the content and line number

Usage: cat [OPTION]... [FILE]...
Concatenate FILE(s) to standard output.

With no FILE, or when FILE is -, read standard input.

  -A, --show-all           equivalent to -vET
  -b, --number-nonblank    number nonempty output lines, overrides -n
  -e                       equivalent to -vE
  -E, --show-ends          display $ at end of each line
  -n, --number             number all output lines
  -s, --squeeze-blank      suppress repeated empty output lines
  -t                       equivalent to -vT
  -T, --show-tabs          display TAB characters as ^I
  -u                       (ignored)
  -v, --show-nonprinting   use ^ and M- notation, except for LFD and TAB
      --help     display this help and exit
      --version  output version information and exit

Examples:
  cat f - g  Output f's contents, then standard input, then g's contents.
  cat        Copy standard input to standard output.

GNU coreutils online help: 
Full documentation at:

The head command and its options are as follows:

head -c10 file_ Name displays the first 10 bytes

head -c-10 file_ Name displays all but the last 10 bytes

head -n10 file_ Name displays the first 10 lines

head -n-10 file_ Name displays everything except the last 10 lines

Usage: head [OPTION]... [FILE]...
Print the first 10 lines of each FILE to standard output.
With more than one FILE, precede each with a header giving the file name.

With no FILE, or when FILE is -, read standard input.

Mandatory arguments to long options are mandatory for short options too.
  -c, --bytes=[-]NUM       print the first NUM bytes of each file;
                             with the leading '-', print all but the last
                             NUM bytes of each file
  -n, --lines=[-]NUM       print the first NUM lines instead of the first 10;
                             with the leading '-', print all but the last
                             NUM lines of each file
  -q, --quiet, --silent    never print headers giving file names
  -v, --verbose            always print headers giving file names
  -z, --zero-terminated    line delimiter is NUL, not newline
      --help     display this help and exit
      --version  output version information and exit

NUM may have a multiplier suffix:
b 512, kB 1000, K 1024, MB 1000*1000, M 1024*1024,
GB 1000*1000*1000, G 1024*1024*1024, and so on for T, P, E, Z, Y.

GNU coreutils online help: 
Full documentation at:

The tail command and its options are as follows:

tail -c10 file_ Name displays the last 10 bytes

tail -c-10 file_ Name displays all but the first 10 bytes

tail -n10 file_ Name displays the last 10 lines

tail -n-10 file_ Name displays everything except the first 10 lines

Usage: tail [OPTION]... [FILE]...
Print the last 10 lines of each FILE to standard output.
With more than one FILE, precede each with a header giving the file name.

With no FILE, or when FILE is -, read standard input.

Mandatory arguments to long options are mandatory for short options too.
  -c, --bytes=[+]NUM       output the last NUM bytes; or use -c +NUM to
                             output starting with byte NUM of each file
  -f, --follow[={name|descriptor}]
                           output appended data as the file grows;
                             an absent option argument means 'descriptor'
  -F                       same as --follow=name --retry
  -n, --lines=[+]NUM       output the last NUM lines, instead of the last 10;
                             or use -n +NUM to output starting with line NUM
      --max-unchanged-stats=N
                           with --follow=name, reopen a FILE which has not
                             changed size after N (default 5) iterations
                             to see if it has been unlinked or renamed
                             (this is the usual case of rotated log files);
                             with inotify, this option is rarely useful
      --pid=PID            with -f, terminate after process ID, PID dies
  -q, --quiet, --silent    never output headers giving file names
      --retry              keep trying to open a file if it is inaccessible
  -s, --sleep-interval=N   with -f, sleep for approximately N seconds
                             (default 1.0) between iterations;
                             with inotify and --pid=P, check process P at
                             least once every N seconds
  -v, --verbose            always output headers giving file names
  -z, --zero-terminated    line delimiter is NUL, not newline
      --help     display this help and exit
      --version  output version information and exit

NUM may have a multiplier suffix:
b 512, kB 1000, K 1024, MB 1000*1000, M 1024*1024,
GB 1000*1000*1000, G 1024*1024*1024, and so on for T, P, E, Z, Y.

With --follow (-f), tail defaults to following the file descriptor, which
means that even if a tail'ed file is renamed, tail will continue to track
its end.  This default behavior is not desirable when you really want to
track the actual name of the file, not the file descriptor (e.g., log
rotation).  Use --follow=name in that case.  That causes tail to track the
named file in a way that accommodates renaming, removal and creation.

GNU coreutils online help: 
Full documentation at:

Better with pipes

In addition, these three commands are often used with the pipeline function for the operation of file contents, such as:

Yes data.txt Sort the data in: cat data.txt | sort

Yes data.txt Content matching in: cat data.txt | grep ‘a’

output data.txt Non empty rows in: cat – B data.txt | wc -l