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 More tools

To find out more about the kind of data we are dealing with, we use the file command. By applying certain tests that check properties of a file in the file system, magic numbers and language tests, file tries to make an educated guess about the format of a file. Some examples:

mike:~> file Documents/
Documents/: directory

mike:~> file high-tech-stats.pdf
high-tech-stats.pdf: PDF document, version 1.2

mike:~> file Nari-288.rm
Nari-288.rm: RealMedia file

mike:~> file bijlage10.sdw
bijlage10.sdw: Microsoft Office Document

mike:~> file logo.xcf
logo.xcf: GIMP XCF image data, version 0, 150 x 38, RGB Color

mike:~> file cv.txt
cv.txt: ISO-8859 text

mike:~> file image.png
image.png: PNG image data, 616 x 862, 8-bit grayscale, non-interlaced

mike:~> file figure
figure: ASCII text

mike:~> file me+tux.jpg
me+tux.jpg: JPEG image data, JFIF standard 1.01, resolution (DPI),
            "28 Jun 1999", 144 x 144

mike:~> file gzip compressed data, deflated, original filename,
         `', last modified: Thu Nov  1 23:45:39 2001, os: Unix

mike:~> file vi.gif
vi.gif: GIF image data, version 89a, 88 x 31

mike:~> file slide1
slide1: HTML document text

mike:~> file template.xls
template.xls: Microsoft Office Document

mike:~> file PostScript document text conforming at level 2.0

mike:~> file /dev/log
/dev/log: socket

mike:~> file /dev/hda
/dev/hda: block special (3/0)

The file command has a series of options, among others the -z option to look into compressed files. See info file for a detailed description. Keep in mind that the results of file are not absolute, it is only a guess. In other words, file can be tricked.

Note Why all the fuss about file types and formats?

Shortly, we will discuss a couple of command-line tools for looking at plain text files. These tools will not work when used on the wrong type of files. In the worst case, they will crash your terminal and/or make a lot of beeping noises. If this happens to you, just close the terminal session and start a new one. But try to avoid it, because it is usually very disturbing for other people.

Introducing Linux
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