Creating a new file in Linux is straightforward, but there are also some surprising and clever techniques.
In this tutorial learn how to to create a file from a Linux terminal.
- Access to a command line/terminal window (Ctrl–Alt–F2 or Ctrl–Alt–T)
- A user account with sudo privileges (optional for some files/directories)
Linux is designed to create any file you specify, even if it doesn’t already exist. One smart feature is that you can create a file directly, without needing to open an application first.
Here are a few commands for creating a file directly from the command line.
The easiest way to create a new file in Linux is by using the touch command.
In a terminal window, enter the following:
This creates a new empty file named test.txt. You can see it by entering:
The ls command lists the contents of the current directory. Since no other directory was specified, the touch command created the file in the current directory.
If there’s already a file with the name you chose, the touch command will update the timestamp.
A redirection operator is a name for a character that changes the destination where the results are displayed.
Right angle bracket >
This symbol tells the system to output results into whatever you specify next. The target is usually a filename. You can use this symbol by itself to create a new file:
This creates a new empty file.
Use the ls command to list the contents of the current directory and find the file test2.txt.
The cat command is short for concatenate. It can be used to output the contents of several files, one file, or even part of a file. If the file doesn’t exist, the linux cat command will create it.
To create an empty file using cat, enter the following:
cat > test3.txt
Note the redirection operator. Typically, the command displays the contents of test2.txt on the screen. The redirection operator > tells the system to place it in the test2.txt file.
Verify that the file was created:
The system should now have test.txt, test2.txt, and test3.txt in the list.
The echo command will duplicate whatever you specify in the command, and put the copy into a file.
Enter the following:
echo ‘Random sample text’ > test4.txt
Verify that the file was created:
You should see the test4.txt file added to the list. Use the cat command to display the contents of the new file:
The system should display Random sample text (or whatever you entered with the echo command.)
The printf command works like the echo command, and it adds some formatting functionality. To add a single line of text, enter:
printf ‘First line of textn’ test5.txt
To add two lines of text, separate each line with the n option:
printf ‘First line of textn Second line of text’ test6.txt
You can use the cat command on either of these files to display their contents.
Note: To use several terminal instances in a single window manager, consider using Linux screen. It enables additional features and an enhanced command line for working with Linux files.
All Linux distributions have at least one text editor. Some have multiple editors. Each editor has different strengths and features. This will show you three of the most popular.
Vi is the oldest text editor in Linux. It was created alongside the Linux operating system for directly editing text files. Since it’s unlikely you’ll see a Linux distribution without it, it’s a safe editor to know.
To create a file using Vi, enter the following:
Your screen will change. Now you’re in the text editor. Press the letter i to switch to insert mode, then type a few words to try it out.
To save and exit press Esc and hit Enter.
You may have noticed that the Vi editor wasn’t very user-friendly. Vim is a newer version, which stands for Vi editor, Modified.
Use vim to create a new text file:
This screen will look similar to the Vi editor screen. Press i to insert text, and type a few words. Save file and exit by entering:
Esc :wq Enter
(Escape, colon wq, then Enter.)
Nano is a newer and much easier text editor to navigate.
Create a new file by entering the command:
By default, Nano puts you directly into editing mode. It also displays a helpful list of commands at the bottom of the screen.
Enter some text, then press Ctrl+O to save the changes.
Press Ctrl+X to exit the editor.
Note: Learn all you need about Nano in the Install and Use Nano in Linux article.
Now you have several options to create new files in Linux from the command line. Next, learn how to copy files and directories in Linux to manage your files more efficiently.