How to use the Linux cat command to read files and more


The cat command is one of the most fundamental and frequently used commands in the Linux command-line environment. Short for “concatenate,” the cat command is primarily used to display the contents of files, but it also offers a range of other capabilities, such as creating, concatenating, and redirecting files. In this blog post, we’ll explore the basics of the cat command, its various options, and some practical examples of how to use it effectively.

The Basics of the cat Command

The basic syntax of the cat command is simple and straightforward:

cat [options] [file...]
  • options: Optional flags that modify the behavior of the cat command.
  • file...: The file(s) you want to work with. If no file is specified, cat reads from standard input.

The most common use of the cat command is to display the contents of a file. For example, to view the contents of a file called “example.txt,” you would use the following command:

cat example.txt

The cat command will output the contents of “example.txt” to the terminal.

Common Options for the cat Command

While the cat command is often used without options, it does provide several useful flags that can enhance its functionality:

  • -n: Adds line numbers to the output. This option is helpful when you want to see the line numbers alongside the file contents.
  • -b: Similar to -n, but only adds line numbers to non-blank lines.
  • -s: Squeezes multiple consecutive blank lines into a single blank line. This option is useful for reducing visual clutter in files with large gaps.
  • -E: Displays a $ character at the end of each line, making it easier to spot line breaks.

Practical Examples of Using the cat Command

Let’s explore some practical examples of how the cat command can be used:

Example 1: Creating a New File

You can use the cat command to create a new file and enter its contents from the terminal. For example, to create a file called “notes.txt,” use the following command:

cat > notes.txt

After running this command, you can type the contents of the file directly into the terminal. To save the file and exit, press Ctrl + D.

Example 2: Concatenating Multiple Files

The cat command can concatenate the contents of multiple files. For example, to concatenate the contents of “file1.txt” and “file2.txt” into a new file called “merged.txt,” use the following command:

cat file1.txt file2.txt > merged.txt

Example 3: Appending Content to an Existing File

You can use the cat command to append content to an existing file. For example, to append the contents of “additional.txt” to “notes.txt,” use the following command:

cat additional.txt >> notes.txt


The cat command is a versatile and essential tool for working with text files on Linux. Whether you’re displaying file contents, creating new files, or concatenating and redirecting files, the cat command has you covered. Its simplicity and flexibility make it a valuable addition to any Linux user’s toolkit.

We hope you found this tutorial helpful and that you now have a better understanding of how to use the cat command effectively. As you continue to explore the Linux command-line environment, you’ll discover that the cat command is

just one of many powerful tools available for text processing and file manipulation. Keep experimenting with different options and commands to unlock the full potential of the Linux command line. Happy exploring!

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