Shell Script Utility To Read a File Line By Line

# Shell script utility to read a file line line.
# Once line is read it can be process in processLine() function
# You can call script as follows, to read myfile.txt:
# ./readline myfile.txt
# Following example will read line from standard input device aka keyboard:
# ./readline
# -----------------------------------------------
# Copyright (c) 2005 nixCraft <>
# This script is licensed under GNU GPL version 2.0 or above
# -------------------------------------------------------------------------
# This script is part of nixCraft shell script collection (NSSC)
# Visit for more information.
# -------------------------------------------------------------------------
# User define Function (UDF)
  line="$@" # get all args
  #  just echo them, but you may need to customize it according to your need
  # for example, F1 will store first field of $line, see readline2 script
  # for more examples
  # F1=$(echo $line | awk '{ print $1 }')
  echo $line
### Main script stars here ###
# Store file name
# Make sure we get file name as command line argument 
# Else read it from standard input device
if [ "$1" == "" ]; then
   # make sure file exist and readable
   if [ ! -f $FILE ]; then 
  	echo "$FILE : does not exists"
  	exit 1
   elif [ ! -r $FILE ]; then
  	echo "$FILE: can not read"
  	exit 2
# read $FILE using the file descriptors
# Set loop separator to end of line
IFS=$(echo -en "\n\b")
exec 3<&0
exec 0<"$FILE"
while read -r line
	# use $line variable to process line in processLine() function
	processLine $line
exec 0<&3
# restore $IFS which was used to determine what the field separators are
exit 0
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39 comments… add one
  • Azaz Feb 8, 2012 @ 5:43

    Cool, I found this script very useful. I modified this and used to make our syncronisation across servers fully automated. Great Job

  • cavin Nov 10, 2011 @ 7:16

    THANK YOU for sharing the’s very generous/kind sharing…THUMBS UP

  • anon Aug 23, 2011 @ 17:00

    Don’t listen that fool Dedeepthi ↑
    Here is the real code:
    —–cut here—————
    for i in ‘cat file.txt’
    echo “$i”
    —–cut here—————

  • Dedeepthi Mar 31, 2011 @ 9:10

    You can try this simple code to read the file “file.txt” line-by-ine….

    while read line
    echo $line;
    sleep 1;
    done < file.txt

  • DIPANKAR GHOSH Jan 31, 2011 @ 12:53

    hi i want to update a port number in a file such like……
    file content…

    # Temporary use by Boyajian. Thank you.
    # Plz feel free to change as per ur need. Thnx – Ayan



    now if i want to update the value of ACE_MATCH_SERVER_PORT from 16711 to 78777
    what would be the code to do this stub? please give a solution at the earliest

  • CrackTheInterview Jan 21, 2011 @ 11:29

    for line in `cat abc.txt`;do
    touch path/$line

    this 2 line is code enuff

  • SK Oct 19, 2010 @ 8:07

    Hi Very informative post. Thanks for this.
    But I have one confussion that
    what following code is doing. Please healp.
    IFS=$(echo -en “\n\b”)
    exec 3<&0
    exec 0<"$FILE"

  • Vimarsh Aug 23, 2010 @ 10:16


    I need to read a file and see for the occurence /local/svncheckout/* at the begining of each line. If this instance is found I need to delete that particular line.

    I need to write this program using shell script (bash shell)

    Thanks a lot

  • sj Jul 9, 2010 @ 4:47

    I edited the code to input the contents of $line when ever the loop runs. it inputs line by line in a file that contains a list of id’s I pulled out of etc/passwd. for some reason it’s stops at the 25th line. it starts combining the variables to I dont’ know what’s going on. how it could work for the first 25 entries then break.

  • Samuel May 14, 2010 @ 20:31

    Thanks for posting it!!!

  • Sanjay Mar 8, 2010 @ 14:50

    Thank you for the post.
    It’s work perfectly but i need some changes
    can u help me?
    i want a search a specific pattern in a file and copy a a search result to xml file
    Thanks in advance.

  • vinu Feb 16, 2010 @ 18:55

    This is not working for me.

    sh v1.txt
    : not found:
    : not found: }
    : not found:
    : not found: 40: Syntax error: “elif” unexpected (expecting “then”)

  • Thushara Dec 29, 2009 @ 5:34

    Thank you for the post!!

  • ijo Dec 13, 2009 @ 17:47


  • Hari Oct 28, 2009 @ 21:15

    I have used your example countless time when i wanted to write a quick hack. Thank You!

  • lost Oct 18, 2009 @ 17:16

    Thanks, I used this code and edited it. It’s the closest I’ve been to the output I need but for some reason using this to export each line as an individual variable isn’t working.

    Here is the script, my guess is that it’s a syntax issue of some sort. Thanks in advance for anyone who offers help!

    • 🐧 Vivek Gite Oct 20, 2009 @ 17:13

      Can you tell me what are you trying to create here? If possible please use our forum for further discussion.

  • ravi Aug 26, 2009 @ 11:39

    for i in ‘input filename’
    echo $i

    This code will print file line by line.

  • Maverick Crank GRey Jul 29, 2009 @ 15:16

    gawk ‘{ system(“echo [” $1 “]”) }’ your.file

  • Nikhil Jul 27, 2009 @ 8:45

    Thanks A Ton!
    It Helped!! :)

  • Troy Frericks Jun 10, 2009 @ 17:02

    Thanks… used an an example.

  • Shashidhara HN Apr 28, 2009 @ 13:16

    Good one…

  • arvind Feb 17, 2009 @ 6:52

    I have 2 CSV files. let say emp_data_Jan.csv (will contain the data of employees till Jan) and emp_data_feb.csv (will contain the data of employees till Feb). I need a Shell script which can read both these files and compare the data between emp_data_Jan.csv and emp_data_feb.csv. After comparision i need the output data in new CSV file. Output data will be records which are present in emp_data_Feb.csv and not in emp_data_Jan.csv. Can any one help me out in this.

    Thanks in Advance


  • jinson Feb 5, 2009 @ 11:39

    Want to know how to read word by word for each line , from the file . what could be the seperator value for IFS

  • Arindam Jan 27, 2009 @ 7:20

    Hi All,
    Here is another way-

    ## This will read a file line by line
    x=`wc -l $1 |awk '{print $1}'`
    echo "No of lines are: $x \n"
    while [ $i -le $x ]
            echo "Line Number: $i -->\n"
            echo  "`head -$i  $1 | tail -1` \n"
            i=`expr $i + 1`
  • Arty Jan 23, 2009 @ 10:58

    I was having a real mental block on the best way to read files in shell scripts and I found this site and example script. It was a real help. I did have the following thoughts though:

    I don’t think that it is really necessary to mess with IFS nor with saving and restoring FD 0. I have found that the following adaptation seems to do the job. (With one alteration: not defaulting the input file to stdin)

    # Make sure we get file name as command line argument
    FILE=${1?"No file name specified"}
    # Check that file exists and is readable
    [ ! -f $FILE ] && { echo "$FILE: does not exist"; exit 1; }
    [ ! -r $FILE ] && { echo "$FILE: cannot be read"; exit 2; }
    #Open file for reading
    exec 3

    YMMV. Hope this helps someone else.

  • Jinson Jan 6, 2009 @ 5:54

    Thanks a lot. It works fine. when i read a text from a file and create a new file using that text two small letters disappearing from the text and that leads to an invalid file path . two letters are “e”and “n”. while reading from the file it fails to read these two letters . could you please tell me possible reason for this . is it taking those letters as some delimiter or something ?

    Pre requesties

    1)template.txt in the same path contains a text “ordprg”and a blank line

    2) in the same path contains two lines
    Following program will eliminate “e” and “n”


    # Please Respond to this Thanks in Advance

  • Ravi Jan 5, 2009 @ 10:42

    Thanks it worked

  • Jinson Jan 5, 2009 @ 7:08

    Great Thanks. This is really useful .

  • David Nov 18, 2008 @ 15:34

    Thank you so much, this is just what I was looking for :)

  • vivek Oct 31, 2008 @ 14:16


    This can be easily fixed by adding following code before and after while loop:

    IFS=$(echo -en "\n\b")
    # add your while loop here

    while / for / untile loop is using $IFS to determine what the field separators are. I’ve modified this to use end of line. Here is final modified code:

    IFS=$(echo -en "\n\b")
    exec 3

    The script has been updated to fix this issue. Just download updated version.


  • michelek Oct 30, 2008 @ 12:10

    bad news for everybody who has lines with more than one space between words.

  • John Sanabria Aug 7, 2008 @ 20:50

    Excellent! very illustrative,

    thanks for your contribution! ;-)

  • Brett Jul 24, 2008 @ 19:29

    Hey this worked perfectly. I used it to automatically patch my sun system. I used smpatch analyze > patch.txt then used your script to read in the outputed patch numbers.

  • aye Jul 19, 2008 @ 16:14


  • vikas kale Jun 14, 2008 @ 9:09


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