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6.1 wc: Print newline, word, and byte counts

wc counts the number of bytes, characters, whitespace-separated words, and newlines in each given file, or standard input if none are given or for a file of ‘-’. Synopsis:

wc [option]… [file]…

wc prints one line of counts for each file, and if the file was given as an argument, it prints the file name following the counts. If more than one file is given, wc prints a final line containing the cumulative counts, with the file name ‘total’. The counts are printed in this order: newlines, words, characters, bytes, maximum line length. Each count is printed right-justified in a field with at least one space between fields so that the numbers and file names normally line up nicely in columns. The width of the count fields varies depending on the inputs, so you should not depend on a particular field width. However, as a GNU extension, if only one count is printed, it is guaranteed to be printed without leading spaces.

By default, wc prints three counts: the newline, words, and byte counts. Options can specify that only certain counts be printed. Options do not undo others previously given, so

wc --bytes --words

prints both the byte counts and the word counts.

With the ‘--max-line-length’ option, wc prints the length of the longest line per file, and if there is more than one file it prints the maximum (not the sum) of those lengths.

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


Print only the byte counts.


Print only the character counts.


Print only the word counts.


Print only the newline counts.


Print only the maximum line lengths.


Rather than processing files named on the command line, process those named in file FILE; each name is terminated by a null byte. This is useful when the list of file names is so long that it may exceed a command line length limitation. In such cases, running wc via xargs is undesirable because it splits the list into pieces and makes wc print a total for each sublist rather than for the entire list. One way to produce a list of null-byte-terminated file names is with GNU find, using its ‘-print0’ predicate. For example, to find the length of the longest line in any ‘.c’ or ‘.h’ file in the current hierarchy, do this:

find . -name '*.[ch]' -print0 | wc -L --files0-from=- | tail -n1

Do not specify any FILE on the command line when using this option.

An exit status of zero indicates success, and a nonzero value indicates failure.

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