Redirecting Input and Output in Unix
Section 6: Redirecting Input and Output
CONCEPT: Every program you run from the shell opens three files:
Standard input, standard output, and standard error. The files
provide the primary means of communications between the programs, and
exist for as long as the process runs.
The standard input file provides a way to send data to a process. As
a default, the standard input is read from the terminal keyboard.
The standard output provides a means for the program to output data.
As a default, the standard output goes to the terminal display screen.
The standard error is where the program reports any errors encountered
during execution. By default, the standard error goes to the terminal
CONCEPT: A program can be told where to look for input and
where to send output, using input/output redirection. UNIX
uses the "less than" and "greater than" special characters (< and
>) to signify input and output redirection, respectively.
Using the "less-than" sign with a file name like this:
input from a file called "file1" instead of from the keyboard.
EXAMPLE:Use standard input redirection to send the contents of
the file /etc/passwd to the more command:
- more <
Many UNIX commands that will accept a file name as a command line
argument, will also accept input from standard input if no file is
given on the command line.
EXAMPLE: To see the first ten lines of the /etc/passwd file, the
- head /etc/passwd
- head < /etc/passwd
Using the "greater-than" sign with a file name like this:
command in a file called "file2" instead of on the screen. If the
file "file2" already exists, the old version will be overwritten.
EXAMPLE: Type the command
- ls /tmp >
file called "ls.out" in your home directory. Remember that the tilde
(~) is UNIX shorthand for your home directory. In this command, the
ls command will list the contents of the /tmp directory.
Use two "greater-than" signs to append to an existing file. For
- >> file2
append the output from a command to the end of a file called "file2".
If the file "file2" does not already exist, it will be created.
EXAMPLE: In this example, I list the contents of the /tmp
directory, and put it in a file called myls. Then, I list the
contents of the /etc directory, and append it to the file
- ls /tmp > myls
ls /etc >> myls
Redirecting standard error is a bit trickier, depending on the kind of
shell you're using (there's more than one flavor of shell program!).
In the POSIX shell and ksh, redirect the standard error with the
EXAMPLE: Sort the /etc/passwd file, place the results in a file
called foo, and trap any errors in a file called err with the
- sort < /etc/passwd > foo 2> err
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