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Unix Create a File Command

I‘m a new Unix user. How do I create a file from bash prompt without using GUI tools? How to create a file in Unix from terminal window? What’s the easiest and best way to create a file in Unix?

UNIX operating system provides many command line tools and text editors for creating a text file. You can use vi (emacs or joe), a terminal-based text editor for Unix, available under the GPL. It is designed to be easy to use. In short, you can use any one of the following tool:

  1. Unix cat command
  2. echo or printf command
  3. vi text editor
  4. emacs text editor
  5. joe text editor
  6. Any other console based text editor

Method #1: Creating a file using echo command

Open the Terminal and then type the following command to create a file called demo.txt, enter:

echo 'The only winning move is not to play.' > demo.txt

OR

printf 'The only winning move is not to play.\n' > demo.txt

OR create a file with two lines in demo-1.txt file:

printf 'The only winning move is not to play.\n Source: WarGames movie\n' > demo-1.txt

To examine the contents of the file you have just created is to type the following command at shell prompt:
cat demo.txt
cat demo-1.txt

Sample outputs:

Fig.01: Examine the contents of the file you've just created with cat command.

Fig.01: Examine the contents of the file you’ve just created with cat command.

Method #2: Creating a file using cat command

In this example, create a file named quotes.txt and enter one line of text in it, type the following at the shell prompt:

cat > quotes.txt

You need to press the [Enter] or [Return] key. Finally type the text:

There are some who question the relevance of space activities in a developing nation. To us, there is no ambiguity of purpose. 

Again, press the [Enter] or [Return] key. To stop and save file entry by typing Control+d on a line by itself i.e Press and hold down the Control key and type d. On your screen you will see as follows:
cat > quotes.txt
There are some who question the relevance of space activities in a developing nation.
To us, there is no ambiguity of purpose.
^D

OR

Animated gif 01: Creating a file with cat command

Animated gif 01: Creating a file with cat command


To see the contents of the file you’ve just created, enter:

cat quotes.txt

Method #3: Create a text file using vi / vim text editor

vi / vim is a text editor. To create a file called text.txt, type:
$ vi bar.txt
Press i to insert new text. To save the file and leave vi, type ESC+:+x (press ESC key, type : followed by x and [enter] key).

How do I edit a file just created?

You need to use a text editor such as vi or emacs:
vi filename
Grab mastering the VI editor pdf file for more information on how to use a text editor (see below for link).

Further readings
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{ 7 comments… add one }
  • deepak March 17, 2014, 10:23 am

    hey..very helpfull !!

  • ramesh December 25, 2014, 3:53 am

    i want to learn basic unix commands

  • Magnus Lien January 14, 2015, 12:37 pm

    If you just want an empty file you can do : > filename

  • Chris March 25, 2015, 4:43 pm

    You guys rock. This is a life saver. I’ve tacking a UNIX/Linux class on line and i feel lost. Just came across your website and in 10 minutes learned the first week of the online class.

    the tutorial on how to is what i think people really need. It’s one thing to show the commands but its great to see exactly how its typed. I always get confused on when and where spaces go.

    Now I’m 48 and been around computer for 20+ years but have been tainted when windows.

    Thanks

  • Hanisha January 15, 2016, 1:06 pm

    Very helpful commands
    Thanks!

  • rabia February 3, 2016, 5:19 am

    hello
    can u plz tell me how can i create a text file in unix?

    • Rock March 5, 2016, 7:36 pm

      Just type in Putty:
      cat > filename.txt
      ——————–
      This is the easiest way. :)

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