less is used to display contents of a file, as well as allow navigation. Its name is derived from being the opposite of more.

$ less file.txt

These are the contents of "file.txt".

The output will actually take up the entire screen, and you can navigate using Vim-like commands.

Useful Options / Examples

less can be navigated using Vim-like commands.

  • j/ k: move to the next/ previous line of the file
  • spacebar/ b: move to the next/ previous page of the file
  • h: displays a help screen with a summary of less commands
  • q: quits less

For more commands, use man less or visit this tutorial page.

/def, ?def (“**” represents highlighted text)

**def** foo():
        print "foo"

**def** bar():
        print "bar"

**def** main():

When inside less, you can type /<regex> to search forward for a regular expression. You can use n to find the next occurrence, or N to find the previous occurrence. ?<regex> is the same, but searches backwards and inverts n and N.


m <lowercase letter>, ' <lowercase letter>

The m command inside less allows you to “mark” the current line at the top of your screen with that letter. Later, you can use the ' command with that same letter to jump back to that position.

Line Numbers

less -N huge_file.txt, less --LINE-NUMBERS huge_file.txt

      1 These are the contents of "huge_file.txt".
      3 You can't really tell from here, but this file goes on and on and on and      3  on...
      5 You can navigate this huge file using Vim-like commands!
      7 If it's hard to keep track of where you are in the file though...
      9 Use -N or --LINE-NUMBERS to help you out!

The -N and --LINE-NUMBERS flags turn on line numbers on the side. You can also use -n or --line-numbers to suppress line numbers.

Follow Mode

less +F log.txt

echo "hello world!" >> log.txt

Line 41
Line 42
Line 43
Line 44
Line 45
Line 46
Line 47
Line 48
Line 49
Waiting for data... (interrupt to abort)

The +F flag sets less to work in “follow mode”, which tracks additions to a file. For example, when you use the >> operator to append to a file, less will automatically track it and display what you appended. This is especially useful for error logs on a server, for example. You can press Ctrl-c at any time to stop following and navigate normally, and then F to continue following the file.