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5.2 tail: Output the last part of files

tail prints the last part (10 lines by default) of each file; it reads from standard input if no files are given or when given a file of `-'. Synopsis:

tail [option]... [file]...

If more than one file is specified, tail prints a one-line header consisting of
==> file name <==
before the output for each file.

GNU tail can output any amount of data (some other versions of tail cannot). It also has no `-r' option (print in reverse), since reversing a file is really a different job from printing the end of a file; BSD tail (which is the one with -r) can only reverse files that are at most as large as its buffer, which is typically 32k. A more reliable and versatile way to reverse files is the GNU tac command.

If any option-argument is a number n starting with a `+', tail begins printing with the nth item from the start of each file, instead of from the end.

The program accepts the following options. Also see 2. Common options.

`-c bytes'
Output the last bytes bytes, instead of final lines. Appending `b' multiplies bytes by 512, `k' by 1024, and `m' by 1048576.

Loop forever trying to read more characters at the end of the file, presumably because the file is growing. This option is ignored when reading from a pipe. If more than one file is given, tail prints a header whenever it gets output from a different file, to indicate which file that output is from.

There are two ways to specify how you'd like to track files with this option, but that difference is noticeable only when a followed file is removed or renamed. If you'd like to continue to track the end of a growing file even after it has been unlinked, use `--follow=descriptor'. This is the default behavior, but it is not useful if you're tracking a log file that may be rotated (removed or renamed, then reopened). In that case, use `--follow=name' to track the named file by reopening it periodically to see if it has been removed and recreated by some other program.

No matter which method you use, if the tracked file is determined to have shrunk, tail prints a message saying the file has been truncated and resumes tracking the end of the file from the newly-determined endpoint.

When a file is removed, tail's behavior depends on whether it is following the name or the descriptor. When following by name, tail can detect that a file has been removed and gives a message to that effect, and if `--retry' has been specified it will continue checking periodically to see if the file reappears. When following a descriptor, tail does not detect that the file has been unlinked or renamed and issues no message; even though the file may no longer be accessible via its original name, it may still be growing.

The option values `descriptor' and `name' may be specified only with the long form of the option, not with `-f'.

This option is the same as `--follow=name --retry'. That is, tail will attempt to reopen a file when it is removed. Should this fail, tail will keep trying until it becomes accessible again.

This option is meaningful only when following by name. Without this option, when tail encounters a file that doesn't exist or is otherwise inaccessible, it reports that fact and never checks it again.

Change the number of seconds to wait between iterations (the default is 1). During one iteration, every specified file is checked to see if it has changed size.

When following by name or by descriptor, you may specify the process ID, pid, of the sole writer of all file arguments. Then, shortly after that process terminates, tail will also terminate. This will work properly only if the writer and the tailing process are running on the same machine. For example, to save the output of a build in a file and to watch the file grow, if you invoke make and tail like this then the tail process will stop when your build completes. Without this option, you would have had to kill the tail -f process yourself.
$ make >& makerr & tail --pid=$! -f makerr
If you specify a pid that is not in use or that does not correspond to the process that is writing to the tailed files, then tail may terminate long before any files stop growing or it may not terminate until long after the real writer has terminated. Note that `--pid' cannot be supported on some systems; tail will print a warning if this is the case.

When tailing a file by name, if there have been n (default n=5) consecutive iterations for which the size has remained the same, then open/fstat the file to determine if that file name is still associated with the same device/inode-number pair as before. When following a log file that is rotated, this is approximately the number of seconds between when tail prints the last pre-rotation lines and when it prints the lines that have accumulated in the new log file. This option is meaningful only when following by name.

`-n n'
Output the last n lines.

Never print file name headers.

Always print file name headers.

On older systems, tail supports an obsolete option `-countoptions', which is recognized only if it is specified first. count is a decimal number optionally followed by a size letter (`b', `k', `m') as in -c, or `l' to mean count by lines, or other option letters (`cfqv'). Some older tail implementations also support an obsolete option `+count' with the same meaning as `-+count'. POSIX 1003.1-2001 (see section 2.5 Standards conformance) does not allow these options; use `-c count' or `-n count' instead.

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