2.1 Copying Files
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
cp file1 file2 is the command which makes
a copy of file1 in the current working directory and calls it
What we are going to do now, is to take a file stored in an open access area
of the file system, and use the cp command to copy
it to your unixstuff directory.
First, cd to your unixstuff directory.
% cd ~/unixstuff
Then at the UNIX prompt, type,
% cp /vol/examples/tutorial/science.txt .
Note: Don't forget the dot . at the end. Remember, in
UNIX, the dot means the current directory.
The above command means copy the file science.txt to the
current directory, keeping the name the same.
(Note: The directory /vol/examples/tutorial/ is
an area to which everyone in the school has read and copy access. Use 'File/Save
As..' from the menu bar to save it into your unixstuff
Create a backup of your science.txt file by copying it to a
file called science.bak
2.2 Moving files
mv file1 file2 moves (or renames)
file1 to file2
To move a file from one place to another, use the mv command. This has the
effect of moving rather than copying the file, so you end up with only one file
rather than two.
It can also be used to rename a file, by moving the file to the same
directory, but giving it a different name.
We are now going to move the file science.bak to your backup directory.
First, change directories to your unixstuff directory (can you remember
how?). Then, inside the unixstuff directory, type
% mv science.bak backups/.
Type ls and ls backups to see if it has worked.
2.3 Removing files and directories
rm (remove), rmdir (remove directory)
To delete (remove) a file, use the rm command.
As an example, we are going to create a copy of the science.txt
file then delete it.
Inside your unixstuff directory, type
% cp science.txt tempfile.txt
% rm tempfile.txt
You can use the rmdir command to remove a
directory (make sure it is empty first). Try to remove the backups
directory. You will not be able to since UNIX will not let you remove a
Create a directory called tempstuff using
mkdir , then remove it using the
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
At the prompt, type
This will clear all text and leave you with the % prompt at the top of the
The command cat can be used to display the contents of a file on the screen.
% 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
% 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
% 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?
2.5 Searching the contents of a file
Simple searching using less
Using less, you can search though a text file
for a keyword (pattern). For example, to search through science.txt
for the word 'science', type
% less science.txt
then, still in less, type a forward slash [/]
followed by the word to search
As you can see, less finds and highlights the
keyword. Type [n] to search for the next occurrence of the word.
grep (don't ask why it is called grep)
grep is one of many standard UNIX utilities. It
searches files for specified words or patterns. First clear the screen, then
% grep science science.txt
As you can see, grep has printed out each line
containg the word science.
Or has it ????
% grep Science science.txt
The grep command is case sensitive; it
distinguishes between Science and science.
To ignore upper/lower case distinctions, use the -i option, i.e. type
% grep -i science science.txt
To search for a phrase or pattern, you must enclose it in single quotes (the
apostrophe symbol). For example to search for spinning top, type
% grep -i 'spinning top' science.txt
Some of the other options of grep are:
-v display those lines that do NOT match
-n precede each matching line with the line number
-c print only the total count of matched lines
Try some of them and see the different results. Don't forget, you can use
more than one option at a time. For example, the number of lines without the
words science or Science is
% grep -ivc science science.txt
wc (word count)
A handy little utility is the wc command, short
for word count. To do a word count on science.txt, type
% wc -w science.txt
To find out how many lines the file has, type
% wc -l science.txt
|cp file1 file2
|copy file1 and call it file2
|mv file1 file2
|move or rename file1 to file2
|remove a file
|remove a directory
|display a file
|display a file a page at a time
|display the first few lines of a file
|display the last few lines of a file
|grep 'keyword' file
|search a file for keywords
|count number of lines/words/characters in file