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Linux and Unix wc command tutorial with examples

Tutorial on using wc, a UNIX and Linux command for printing newline, word and byte counts for files. Examples of printing the number of lines in a file, printing the number of characters in a file and printing the number of words in a file.

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

Table of contents

wc man page

What is the wc command in UNIX?

The wc command in UNIX is a command line utility for printing newline, word and byte counts for files. It can return the number of lines in a file, the number of characters in a file and the number of words in a file. It can also be combine with pipes for general counting operations.

How to get count information on a file

To get count information on a file use the wc command with no options.

wc /usr/share/dict/words
235886  235886 2493109 /usr/share/dict/words

The output is number of lines, number of words, number of bytes, filename.

How to print the number of lines in a file

To print the number of lines in a file (or more specifically newline counts) use the -l option.

wc -l /usr/share/dict/words
235886 /usr/share/dict/words

How to print the number of characters in a file

To print the number of characters in a file (or more specifically newline counts) use the -m option.

wc -m /usr/share/dict/words
2493109 /usr/share/dict/words

How to print the number of bytes in a file

To print the number of bytes in a file (or more specifically newline counts) use the -c option.

wc -c /usr/share/dict/words
2493109 /usr/share/dict/words

How to print the number of words in a file

To print the number of bytes in a file (or more specifically newline counts) use the -w option.

wc -w /usr/share/dict/words
235886 /usr/share/dict/words

How to count records in CSV files

To count the number of records (or rows) in several CSV files the wc can used in conjunction with pipes. In the following example there are five CSV files. The requirement is to find out the sum of records in all five files. This can be achieved by piping the output of the cat command to wc.

cat *.csv | wc -l 
1866

Done. There are 1866 records across the 5 files.

How to count the number files in a directory

To count the number of folders and files in a directory wc can be combined with the ls command. By passing the -1 options to ls it will each folder or line on a new line. This can be piped to wc to give a count.

ls -1 | wc -1
21

Further reading

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