When using properly, command line is often the easiest and fastest way to get tasks done, even though the same thing can be also accomplished in other ways like using Python, Perl, etc.. Many useful little tricks can be found on the internet. I have collected some of them here.

scp with regular expression

It is not guaranteed that the terminal you use can recognize regular expression on the remote machine. The magic here is

scp "user@machine:/path/[regex here]" .

Finding and replacing text within files

sed -i 's/original/new/g' file.txt


  • sed = Stream Editor
  • -i = in-place (i.e. save back to the original file)
  • The command string:
    • s = the substitute command
    • original = a regular expression describing the word to replace (or just the word itself)
    • new = the text to replace it with
    • g = global (i.e. replace all and not just the first occurrence)
  • file.txt = the file name

Monitoring log file in real time

tail -f log

This works, but the downside is that tail reads the whole file into buffer. As an alternative, using less is a more elegant approach:

less +F log

Returning the last n modified file in directory in time order:

ls -Art | tail -n 1

or in reverse order:

ls -t | head -n 1

Piping selected files into tar

ls -Art | tail -n 5 | tar czvf out.tar.gz -T -

Avoiding file auto purge

On many file systems, there may be some rules for file housekeeping. One trick to avoid it is to touch each and every file in the repository. This can be done through the following command:

find /home/example -exec touch {} \;

Counting Files

ls -F | grep -v / | wc -l

ls -F list all files and append indicator (one of */=>@|) to entries’ grep -v / keep all de strings that do not contain a slash; wc -l count lines.

Checking missing sequence files

Assume the files share the pattern FILE_DDD.txt.

Example 1:

for i in {1..14}
seq=`printf "%03d" $i`
if [ ! -f "FILE_${seq}.txt" ]
echo "FILE_${i}.txt"

Assume a series of files with numbers indicating the day of a year and the hour of day:

GLDAS_NOAH025SUBP_3H.A2003001.0000.001.2015210044609.pss.grb GLDAS_NOAH025SUBP_3H.A2003001.0600.001.2015210044609.pss.grb GLDAS_NOAH025SUBP_3H.A2003001.1200.001.2015210044609.pss.grb GLDAS_NOAH025SUBP_3H.A2003001.1800.001.2015210044609.pss.grb

for a in file_{001..365}.{00..18..6}.txt
  [[ -f $a ]] || echo "$a"

Note the usages of .. in the above examples. This is very useful to generate a continous list of strings

Assume just number ordering:

ub=1000 # Replace this with the largest existing file's number.
seq "$ub" | while read -r i; do
    [[ -f "$i.txt" ]] || echo "$i.txt is missing"

Someone suggested awk, but I am not familiar with it at all.

List file names using regular expression

Example 1: finding files within sequence and deleting

ls | grep -P "^08[5-9].*[0-9]" | xargs -d "\n" rm

Example 2

find your-directory/ -name 'A*[0-9][0-9]' -delete

Removing prefix from files

Changing file extensions

for f in *.html; do
    mv -- "$f" "${f%.html}.php"


sudo -s: run shell by root without changing a directory, also env vars (that could be set in, e.g. .bash_profile) wouldn’t be imported.

sudo -i: run shell by root, import env vars and change directory.

su -: first change user, then run shell. It means that all env vars were cleaned and “clean” root session was executed.

su: command doesn’t clean env vars, it just changes a user to root and keeps env vars for old user.

Many more to be added later! Some additional private notes on scripting are listed in this repo.