Introduction

Creating a new file in Linux is straightforward, but there are also some surprising and clever techniques. In this tutorial learn how to to create a file from a Linux terminal.

create a file from linux terminal

Prerequisites

  • Access to a command line/terminal window (CtrlAltF2 or CtrlAltT)
  • A user account with sudo privileges (optional for some files/directories)

Creating New Linux files From Command Line

Linux is designed to create any file you specify, even if it doesn’t already exist. One smart feature is that you can create a file directly, without needing to open an application first. Here are a few commands for creating a file directly from a command line.

Create a File with Touch Command

The easiest way to create a new file in Linux is by using the touch command.

In a terminal window, enter the following:

touch test.txt

This creates a new empty file named test.txt. You can see it by entering:

ls

The ls command lists the contents of the current directory. Since no other directory was specified, the touch command created the file in the current directory.

create a file with touch command

If there’s already a file with the name you chose, the touch command will update the time stamp.

Create a New File With the Redirect Operator

A redirection operator is a name for a character that changes the destination where the results are displayed.

Right angle bracket >

This symbol tells the system to output results into whatever you specify next. The target is usually a filename. You can use this symbol by itself to create a new file:

> test2.txt

This creates a new empty file.
Use the ls command to list the contents of the current directory and find the file test2.txt.

create a file with redirection operator

Create File with cat Command

The cat command is short for concatenate. It can be used to output the contents of several files, one file, or even part of a file. If the file doesn’t exist, the cat command will create it.

To create an empty file using cat, enter the following:

cat > test3.txt

Note the redirection operator. Typically, the command displays the contents of test2.txt on the screen. The redirection operator > tells the system to place it in the test2.txt file.

Verify that the file was created:

ls

The system should now have test.txt, test2.txt, and test3.txt in the list.

create a file with cat command

Create File with echo Command

The echo command will duplicate whatever you specify in the command, and put the copy into a file.

Enter the following:

echo ‘Random sample text’ > test4.txt

Verify that the file was created:

ls

create a file with echo command

You should see the test4.txt file added to the list. Use the cat command to display the contents of the new file:

cat test4.txt

The system should display Random sample text (or whatever you entered with the echo command.)

echo command output

Create File with printf Command

The printf command works like the echo command, and it adds some formatting functionality. To add a single line of text, enter:

printf ‘First line of text\n’ test5.txt

To add two lines of text, separate each line with the \n option:

printf ‘First line of text\n Second line of text’ test6.txt

You can use the cat command on either of these files to display their contents.

Using Text Editors to Create a Linux File

All Linux distributions have at least one text editor. Some have multiple editors. Each editor has different strengths and features. This will show you three of the most popular.

Vi Text Editor

Vi is the oldest text editor in Linux. It was created alongside the Linux operating system for directly editing text files. Since it’s unlikely you’ll see a Linux distribution without it, it’s a safe editor to know.

To create a file using Vi, enter the following:

vi test7.txt

Your screen will change. Now you’re in the text editor. Press the letter i to switch to insert mode, then type a few words to try it out.

Save and exit by pressing:

Esc : x Enter

vi text editor example

Press the Esc key to switch from typing to command mode. Press the colon key, then the x key, followed by the Enter key.

Vim Text Editor

You may have noticed that the Vi editor wasn’t very user-friendly. Vim is a newer version, which stands for Vi editor, Modified.

Use vim to create a new text file:

vim test8.txt

using vim to make a new file in Linux

This screen will look similar to the Vi editor screen. Press i to insert text, and type a few words. Save the file and exit by entering:

Esc :wq Enter

(Escape, colon wq, then Enter.)

Nano Text Editor

Nano is a newer and much easier text editor to navigate.

Create a new file by entering the command:

nano test9.txt

By default, Nano puts you directly into editing mode. It also displays a helpful list of commands at the bottom of the screen.

nano text editor to create a new linux file

Enter some text, then press Ctrl-O to save the changes.

Press Ctrl-X to exit the editor.

Conclusion

Now you have several options to create new files in Linux from the command line. Next, learn how to copy files and directories in Linux to manage your files more efficiently.