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The `wc` Command in Linux

The wc (Word Count) command in Linux is a versatile utility that displays the number of lines, words, and bytes contained in a file or received via a pipe. Whether you're a system administrator, programmer, or end user, understanding wc can greatly augment your text-manipulation prowess. This article explores the syntax, options, and examples to help you get the most out of wc.

Syntax of wc

The basic syntax for the wc command is as follows:

wc [OPTION]... [FILE]...
  • OPTION: Flags that modify the behavior of wc.
  • FILE: The file(s) to operate on. If this parameter is omitted, wc reads from standard input.

Options for wc

Here is a table outlining some commonly used options, their shorthand, and what they do:

--lines-lCount lines
--words-wCount words
--chars-mCount characters
--bytes-cCount bytes
--max-line-length-LThe maximum display width

Practical Examples

Basic Usage

If you have a file called example.txt containing:

Hello, World!
How are you today?

Run wc to get lines, words, and bytes:

wc example.txt


 2  8 32 example.txt

This means 2 lines, 8 words, and 32 bytes.

Count Lines

To count only lines, use the -l option:

wc -l example.txt


2 example.txt

Count Words

To count only words, use the -w option:

wc -w example.txt


8 example.txt

Count Characters

To count only characters, use the -m option:

wc -m example.txt


32 example.txt

Count Bytes

To count only bytes, use the -c option:

wc -c example.txt


32 example.txt

Find Maximum Line Length

To find the maximum line length, use the -L option:

wc -L example.txt


18 example.txt

Combining Multiple Options

You can combine options for more detailed statistics:

wc -lw example.txt


2 8 example.txt

Using with Pipes

The wc command can also work with other commands through a pipe. For instance, to count the number of files in a directory, you could do:

ls | wc -l


The wc command is a powerful utility with a straightforward interface, making it incredibly useful for a variety of text-manipulation tasks. Its options to count lines, words, characters, or bytes give it versatility. Furthermore, it plays nicely with other text and file manipulation commands, amplifying its capabilities. Understanding wc will certainly upgrade your Linux command-line toolkit.

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