How to Use the Head Command
Updated by Phil Zona
In this guide, you’ll learn how to use the
head command. Using
head is a simple way to show the beginning of text files, for example, when analyzing logs and other text files that change over time. It may also be combined with other tools for selective, real-time monitoring. When performing administrative tasks on your Linode,
head is one of the most useful tools available.
headcommand, followed by the file of which you’d like to view:
This will print the first ten lines of the
/var/log/auth.logfile to your terminal output.
To change the number of lines displayed, use the
head -n 50 /var/log/auth.log
In this example, the first 50 lines will be shown, but you can modify this number to show as few or as many lines as you need.
To show the beginning of a file up to a specific number of bytes, you may use the -c option:
head -c 1000 /var/log/auth.log
This will print the first 1000 bytes of the file to your screen, and can be useful in situations where a file must be broken into pieces of a fixed size (e.g., for uploading to a separate server).
headcommand can even be combined with other tools like
grepto filter the results:
head /var/log/auth.log | grep 198.51.100.1
This command would search the first ten lines of your access log and only display those that contain the IP address
198.51.100.1. You can also apply options to
headfor an even more specific output.
These are just the basics of how to use
head. It is an incredibly useful tool with many more options than we’ve listed here. To learn more advanced techniques, please check out our full guide on the head command.
This guide is published under a CC BY-ND 4.0 license.