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2.4 Displaying the contents of a file on the screen

clear (clear screen)

Before you start the next section, you may like to clear the terminal window of the previous commands so the output of the following commands can be clearly understood.

At the prompt, type

% clear

This will clear all text and leave you with the % prompt at the top of the window.

cat (concatenate)

The command cat can be used to display the contents of a file on the screen. Type:

% cat science.txt

As you can see, the file is longer than than the size of the window, so it scrolls past making it unreadable

The command less writes the contents of a file onto the screen a page at a time. Type

% less science.txt

Press the [space-bar] if you want to see another page, and type [q] if you want to quit reading. As you can see, less is used in preference to cat for long files.


The head command writes the first ten lines of a file to the screen.

First clear the screen then type

% head science.txt

Then type

% head -5 science.txt

What difference did the -5 do to the head command?


The tail command writes the last ten lines of a file to the screen.

Clear the screen and type

% tail science.txt

Q. How can you view the last 15 lines of the file?

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