Linux And Unix Command To View File

Posted on in Categories , , , , last updated April 17, 2014

I am a new Linux bash shell command line user. How can I view a text file using command line on a Linux or Unix-like operating systems? How can I view (open) binary files such as PDF or images on a Linux or Unix like system from command line?

You can use any one of the following command to view a text file or any other files such as PDF, doc, image, video, music/mp3 and more.

  • cat command
  • less command
  • more command
  • gnome-open command or xdg-open command (generic version) or kde-open command (kde version) – Linux gnome/kde desktop command to open any file.
  • open command – OS X specific command to open any file.

View a text file called foo.txt on a Linux or Unix-like systems

Open the Terminal application and type the following command to view a text file called foo.txt using cat command:

cat foo.txt


cat /etc/resolv.conf

Sample outputs:


You can also use more or less command as follows:

less filename
more filename-here

gnome-open: Open files and directories/urls

The gnome-open command opens a file (or a directory or URL), just as if you had double-clicked the file’s icon. The syntax is:

gnome-open file.pdf
gnome-open sai-ram-bhjan.mp3
gnome-open mars-video.mp4

See our faq “Open Gnome Nautilus File Manager For The Current Linux / Unix Command Line” for more information.

If you are using KDE desktop try kde-open command as follows:

kde-open file.pdf
kde-open sai-ram-bhjan.mp3
kde-open mars-video.mp4

Another option is to try out xdg-open command on Linux and Unix desktop:

xdg-open file.pdf
xdg-open sai-ram-bhjan.mp3
xdg-open mars-video.mp4

If you are using OS X Unix try open command as follows:

open file.pdf
open sai-ram-bhjan.mp3
open mars-video.mp4

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+.

6 comment

  1. Sometimes the ‘ strings ‘ command is useful if the file is not all text. I seems to pull out text but leave the no text out.

  2. this sucks to high heaven,,linix is a pain in arse,,i dont know why anyone would use a fool system like this,,terminals suck,,i do mwean suck,,,terminals,,,idiots,,my windows got imploded,,i had to download this ubuntu,,i regret every god dam day of it,,i cant open any files,,cant open downloads or find them,,cant do anything on this,,,i dont know how or where to look,,terminal???/what the f is that,,how do you work it,,i checked on how to work this,,,just god dam crap,,you have to go to a college for hackers to know what all this shit is to work your browser,l,,,who ever made this for the common people,,,LIED,LIED,,,this is not for peopole,,its for hackers,,i tried to load windows on it,,it dont even let the software load,,i gues i9 have to delete this shit and then download,,this is shit,,i cant open a zip file,,i go to terminal and dont know what the fuck in doing in terminal,,,i check and forum say to put in different signalas or symbols i never seen before,,screw this and the dog it road in on,,,you ubuntu people are a bunch of crooks wanting to charge free for this,,,yes free is way to much money for this.

    1. The cake is a lie.

      The article on the other hand is great. Might use the addition of the most commonly used parameters.
      Anyway, thanks. I was like “more” (mooar) :-) but forgot that you’re often satisfied with “less”

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