Page through text one screenful at a time, Search through output, Edit the command line. less provides more emulation plus extensive enhancements such as allowing backward paging through a file as well as forward movement.

      less [options]

      <command> | less [options]

Moving Commands:

Commands marked with * can be preceded by a number, N. Notes in parentheses indicate the behavior if N is given.

  e  ^E  j  ^N  CR  *  Forward  one line   (or N lines).
  y  ^Y  k  ^K  ^P  *  Backward one line   (or N lines).
  f  ^F  ^V  SPACE  *  Forward  one window (or N lines).
  b  ^B  ESC-v      *  Backward one window (or N lines).
  z                 *  Forward  one window (and set window to N).
  w                 *  Backward one window (and set window to N).
  ESC-SPACE         *  Forward  one window, but don't stop at end-of-file.
  d  ^D             *  Forward  one half-window (and set half-window to N).
  u  ^U             *  Backward one half-window (and set half-window to N).
  ESC-(  RightArrow *  Left  8 character positions (or N positions).
  ESC-)  LeftArrow  *  Right 8 character positions (or N positions).
  F                    Forward forever; like "tail -f"
                      (less +F polls every second, tail -f uses inotify, which is more efficient).
  r  ^R  ^L            Repaint screen.
  R                    Repaint screen, discarding buffered input.

  h  H                 Display this help.
  q  :q  Q  :Q  ZZ     Exit.

Default “window” is the screen height.
Default “half-window” is half of the screen height.

Searching Commands:

  /pattern          *  Search forward for (N-th) matching line.
  ?pattern          *  Search backward for (N-th) matching line.
  n                 *  Repeat previous search (for N-th occurrence).
  N                 *  Repeat previous search in reverse direction.
  ESC-n             *  Repeat previous search, spanning files.
  ESC-N             *  Repeat previous search, reverse dir. & spanning files.
  ESC-u                Undo (toggle) search highlighting.
        Search patterns can be modified by one or more of:
        ^N or !  Search for NON-matching lines.
        ^E or *  Search multiple files (pass thru END OF FILE).
        ^F or @  Start search at FIRST file (for /) or last file (for ?).
        ^K       Highlight matches, but don't move (KEEP position).
        ^R       Don't use REGULAR EXPRESSIONS.

Jumping commands:

  g  <  ESC-<       *  Go to first line in file (or line N).
  G  >  ESC->       *  Go to last line in file (or line N).
  p  %              *  Go to beginning of file (or N percent into file).
  {  (  [           *  Find close bracket } ) ].
  }  )  ]           *  Find open bracket { ( [.
  ESC-^F c1 c2  *  Find close bracket c2.
  ESC-^B c1 c2  *  Find open bracket c1 

Each “find close bracket” command goes forward to the close bracket matching the (N-th) open bracket in the top line.
Each “find open bracket” command goes backward to the open bracket matching the (N-th) close bracket in the bottom line.

  mletter            Mark the current position with .
  'letter            Go to a previously marked position.
  ''                   Go to the previous position.
  ^X^X                 Same as '.

A mark is any upper-case or lower-case letter. Certain marks are predefined:
^ means beginning of the file
means end of the file

Changing files:

  :e [file]            Examine a new file.
  ^X^V                 Same as :e.
  :n                *  Examine the (N-th) next file from the command line.
  :p                *  Examine the (N-th) previous file from the command line.
  :x                *  Examine the first (or N-th) file from the command line.
  :d                   Delete the current file from the command line list.
  =  ^G  :f            Print current file name.

Miscellaneous Commands:

  -flag           Toggle a command line option [see OPTIONS below].
  --name          Toggle a command line option, by name.
  _flag           Display the setting of a command line option.
  __name          Display the setting of an option, by name.
  +cmd        Execute the less cmd each time a new file is examined.

  !command    Execute the shell command with $SHELL.
  |Xcommand   Pipe file between current pos & mark X to shell command.
  v           Edit the current file with $VISUAL or $EDITOR.
  V           Print version number of "less".


Most options can be changed either on the command line, or from within less by using the – or — command.
Options can be given in one of two forms: either a single character preceded by a -, or a name preceeded by –.


  -a  ........  --search-skip-screen
                  Forward search, skips current screen.
  -g  ........  --hilite-search
                  Highlight only last match for searches.
  -G  ........  --HILITE-SEARCH
                  Don't highlight any matches for searches.
  -h [N]  ....  --max-back-scroll=[N]
                  Backward scroll limit.
  -i  ........  --ignore-case
                  Ignore case in searches.
  -I  ........  --IGNORE-CASE
                  Ignore case in searches and in search patterns.
  -j [N]  ....  --jump-target=[N]
                  Screen position of target lines.
  -p [pattern]  --pattern=[pattern]
                  Start at pattern (from command line).
  -t [tag]  ..  --tag=[tag]
                  Find a tag.
  -T [tagsfile] --tag-file=[tagsfile]
                  Use an alternate tags file.
  -y [N]  ....  --max-forw-scroll=[N]
                  Forward scroll limit.


  -D [xn.n]  .  --color=xn.n
                  Set screen colors. (MS-DOS only)
  -c  -C  ....  --clear-screen  --CLEAR-SCREEN
                  Repaint by scrolling/clearing.
  -P [prompt]   --prompt=[prompt]
                  Define new prompt.
  -m  -M  ....  --long-prompt  --LONG-PROMPT
                  Set prompt style.
  -n  -N  ....  --line-numbers  --LINE-NUMBERS
                  Use line numbers.
  -r  ........  --raw-control-chars
                  Output "raw" control characters.
  -s  ........  --squeeze-blank-lines
                  Squeeze multiple blank lines.
  -S  ........  --chop-long-lines
                  Chop long lines.
  -w  ........  --hilite-unread
                  Highlight first new line after forward-screen.
  -W  ........  --HILITE-UNREAD
                  Highlight first new line after any forward movement.
  -~  ........  --tilde
                  Don't display tildes after end of file.
  -z [N]  ....  --window=[N]
                  Set size of window.


  -b [N]  ....  --buffers=[N]
                  Number of buffers.
  -B  ........  --auto-buffers
                  Don't automatically allocate buffers for pipes.
  -f  ........  --force
                  Force open non-regular files.
  -k [file]  .  --lesskey-file=[file]
                  Use a lesskey file.
  -o [file]  .  --log-file=[file]
                  Copy to log file (standard input only).
  -O [file]  .  --LOG-FILE=[file]
                  Copy to log file (unconditionally overwrite).


  -d  ........  --dumb
                  Dumb terminal.
  -e  -E  ....  --quit-at-eof  --QUIT-AT-EOF
                  Quit at end of file.
  -q  -Q  ....  --quiet  --QUIET  --silent --SILENT
                  Quiet the terminal bell.
  -u  -U  ....  --underline-special  --UNDERLINE-SPECIAL
                  Change handling of backspaces.
  -x [N]  ....  --tabs=[N]
                  Set tab stops.
  -X  ........  --no-init
                  Don't use termcap init/deinit strings.
  -" [c[c]]  .  --quotes=[c[c]]
                  Set shell quote characters.
  -?  ........  --help
                  Display help (from command line).
  -V  ........  --version
                  Display the version number of "less".

Line Editing:

These keys can be used to edit text being entered on the “command line” at the bottom of the screen.

 RightArrow                       ESC-l     Move cursor right one character.
 LeftArrow                        ESC-h     Move cursor left one character.
 CNTL-RightArrow  ESC-RightArrow  ESC-w     Move cursor right one word.
 CNTL-LeftArrow   ESC-LeftArrow   ESC-b     Move cursor left one word.
 HOME                             ESC-0     Move cursor to start of line.
 END                              ESC-$     Move cursor to end of line.
 BACKSPACE                                  Delete char to left of cursor.
 DELETE                           ESC-x     Delete char under cursor.
 CNTL-BACKSPACE   ESC-BACKSPACE             Delete word to left of cursor.
 CNTL-DELETE      ESC-DELETE      ESC-X     Delete word under cursor.
 CNTL-U           ESC (MS-DOS only)         Delete entire line.
 UpArrow                          ESC-k     Retrieve previous command line.
 DownArrow                        ESC-j     Retrieve next command line.
 TAB                                        Complete filename & cycle.
 SHIFT-TAB                        ESC-TAB   Complete filename & reverse cycle.
 CNTL-L                                     Complete filename, list all.

When the output of less is redirected to a file, it behaves like cat, no additional output is added or input requested.


Related linux commands:

The less home page
echo – Display message on screen
head – Output the first part of file(s)
more – Display output one screen at a time
pg – Display one page at a time
tail – Output the last part of files
tee – Redirect output to multiple files
Equivalent Windows command: MORE – Display output one screen at a time.

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