less Command Display Line Numbers

in Categories , , , last updated February 28, 2014

I‘m a new Linux user. How can I display line numbers using the less command on Linux or Unix-like system using bash/ksh shell?

You can easily display line numbers using less command. All you have to do is pass either -N or --LINE-NUMBERS option to the less command. This option forces less to show a line number at the beginning of each line in the screen.

Display line numbers in less

The basic syntax is:

less -N filename


less --LINE-NUMBERS filename

In this example, show line numbers for /etc/passwd file using GNU/less, type:

less -N /etc/passwd


less --LINE-NUMBERS /etc/passwd

Sample outputs:

Fig. 01: less displaying the line numbers
Fig. 01: less displaying the line numbers

How do I force less to display line number by default?

The less command can read various options from the environment variable “LESS”. For example, to avoid typing less -N filename each time less is invoked, you might type following on tcsh/csh shell:

setenv LESS "-N"

OR if you use sh/bash/ksh, enter:

LESS="-N"; export LESS

Now, run less as follows:
$ less filename

See less(1) for more information.

Posted by: Vivek Gite

The author is the creator of nixCraft and a seasoned sysadmin and a trainer for the Linux operating system/Unix shell scripting. He has worked with global clients and in various industries, including IT, education, defense and space research, and the nonprofit sector. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+.

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