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less is a Linux-based program that can be used to read sections of large text-based files to the terminal. Unlike cat, less will limit the output to the height of the current terminal session and implements a scroll buffer to scroll forward and backwards through the file.

A consequence of less implementing it’s own scroll buffer is that the terminal history will not be polluted with the contents of the file once less is closed.

Basic Commands

Type the following at the command-prompt to open a file for viewing in less:

$ less my_file.txt

Once in less, use the arrow keys to scroll forward and back in the file. You can also use the mouse wheel for scrolling.

Press q or Q to exit less.


You can search for text in less with the /<search string> command:

While in less, the following will find the first instance of foo:


To continue jumping to each successive match, press n.

To include spaces in the search pattern you must enclose the search pattern in quotes:

/"find me"


Geoffrey Hunter

Dude making stuff.

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