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Mastering the ‘cat’ Command: A Comprehensive Guide


When it comes to working with files in the Linux command line, the ‘cat’ command is an essential tool in every developer’s arsenal. In this guide, we will explore the various options and examples of using the ‘cat’ command, and understand when and why it should be used.

What is the ‘cat’ Command?

The ‘cat’ command in Linux stands for “concatenate,” and its primary function is to read files sequentially and display their content in the terminal. It is a versatile command that can be used for a variety of purposes, including creating, viewing, and combining files.

Basic Usage

The basic syntax for using the ‘cat’ command is:

cat [OPTION]... [FILE]...

Here, ‘[OPTION]’ refers to the various options that can be used with the command, and ‘[FILE]’ represents the file(s) you want to display or manipulate.


The ‘cat’ command offers several options to enhance its functionality. Let’s explore some of the most commonly used options:

-n or –number

This option displays line numbers alongside the content of the file. It is particularly useful when you want to refer to specific lines within a file.

cat -n filename

-b or –number-nonblank

Similar to the ‘-n’ option, this option displays line numbers, but only for non-blank lines. It is helpful when you want to ignore empty lines in a file.

cat -b filename

-s or –squeeze-blank

This option squeezes consecutive blank lines into a single line. It is useful for condensing the output and making it more readable.

cat -s filename

-A or –show-all

When working with files that contain special characters or non-printable characters, this option displays them in a visible format for better understanding.

cat -A filename


Let’s explore some practical examples of using the ‘cat’ command:

1. Displaying the contents of a file

To simply display the contents of a file, use the following command:

cat filename

2. Creating a new file

You can create a new file and add content to it using the ‘cat’ command combined with the output redirection operator ‘>’. For example:

cat <<EOF > newfile.txt
This is the content of the new file.

3. Appending content to an existing file

If you want to add content to an existing file, use the output redirection operator ‘>>’. For example:

cat <<EOF >> existingfile.txt
This content will be appended to the existing file.

4. Combining multiple files into one

To combine the content of multiple files into a single file, use the ‘cat’ command followed by the file names. For example:

cat file1.txt file2.txt > combinedfile.txt

When and Why to Use the ‘cat’ Command

The ‘cat’ command is incredibly useful in various scenarios:

1. Quick file inspection

When you need to quickly view the contents of a file without opening it in an editor, the ‘cat’ command provides a convenient solution.

2. File creation and modification

Using the ‘cat’ command, you can create new files, append content to existing files, or combine multiple files into one.

3. File manipulation in scripts

If you are writing shell scripts or automation scripts, the ‘cat’ command can be used to read and manipulate file content, allowing for efficient and streamlined processes.

4. File concatenation

When you need to merge the content of multiple files into a single file, the ‘cat’ command simplifies the process, saving you time and effort.


The ‘cat’ command is a powerful tool for working with files in the Linux command line. By understanding its options and usage examples, you can efficiently manage and manipulate file content, making your development tasks more streamlined. Whether you need to inspect files, create new ones, or combine existing ones, the ‘cat’ command is an indispensable utility in your Linux toolkit.





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