The power of cat and stdin

1 min read

This post is part of my Today I learned series in which I share all my learnings regarding web development.

Today I came across this tweet by Safia Abdalla. It showed that you can use the cat command to quickly add content to a file (cat - >> foo.txt). The way it works is that you can directly write to stdin until you hit ^D or ^C.

So I opened the manual for the cat command and wanted to see what else is in there. One sentence suprised me though.

If file is a single dash (`-') or absent, cat reads from the standard input.

You can make the snippet even shorter! 😲

$ cat - >> foo.txt
# is the same as
$ cat >> bar.txt

That's cool!

I also discovered that you can use cat and stdin right in between files and concat them (you have to use ^D^C doesn't work then). 🎉

$ cat 1.txt - 3.txt > all.txt

I'm not sure if I'll ever need this functionality but it's always good to know some shell tricks. Safia shares a lot more CLI tricks so you should definitely check these out.

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