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FILE(1)                   BSD General Commands Manual                  FILE(1)

     file -- determine file type

     file [-bchikLnNprsvz] [--mime-type] [--mime-encoding] [-f namefile]
          [-F separator] [-m magicfiles] file
     file -C [-m magicfile]
     file [--help]

     This manual page documents version 4.26 of the file command.

     file tests each argument in an attempt to classify it.  There are three
     sets of tests, performed in this order: filesystem tests, magic tests,
     and language tests.  The first test that succeeds causes the file type to
     be printed.

     The type printed will usually contain one of the words text (the file
     contains only printing characters and a few common control characters and
     is probably safe to read on an ASCII terminal), executable (the file con-
     tains the result of compiling a program in a form understandable to some
     UNIX kernel or another), or data meaning anything else (data is usually
     'binary' or non-printable).  Exceptions are well-known file formats (core
     files, tar archives) that are known to contain binary data.  When adding
     local definitions to /etc/magic, make sure to preserve these keywords.
     Users depend on knowing that all the readable files in a directory have
     the word ``text'' printed.  Don't do as Berkeley did and change ``shell
     commands text'' to ``shell script''.

     The filesystem tests are based on examining the return from a stat(2)
     system call.  The program checks to see if the file is empty, or if it's
     some sort of special file.  Any known file types appropriate to the sys-
     tem you are running on (sockets, symbolic links, or named pipes (FIFOs)
     on those systems that implement them) are intuited if they are defined in
     the system header file <sys/stat.h>.

     The magic tests are used to check for files with data in particular fixed
     formats.  The canonical example of this is a binary executable (compiled
     program) a.out file, whose format is defined in <elf.h>, <a.out.h> and
     possibly <exec.h> in the standard include directory.  These files have a
     'magic number' stored in a particular place near the beginning of the
     file that tells the UNIX operating system that the file is a binary exe-
     cutable, and which of several types thereof.  The concept of a 'magic'
     has been applied by extension to data files.  Any file with some invari-
     ant identifier at a small fixed offset into the file can usually be
     described in this way.  The information identifying these files is read
     from /etc/magic and the the compiled magic file
     /usr/share/file/magic.mgc, or the files in the directory
     /usr/share/file/magic if the compiled file does not exist. In addition,
     if $HOME/.magic.mgc or $HOME/.magic exists, it will be used in preference
     to the system magic files.

     If a file does not match any of the entries in the magic file, it is
     examined to see if it seems to be a text file.  ASCII, ISO-8859-x, non-
     ISO 8-bit extended-ASCII character sets (such as those used on Macintosh
     and IBM PC systems), UTF-8-encoded Unicode, UTF-16-encoded Unicode, and
     EBCDIC character sets can be distinguished by the different ranges and
     sequences of bytes that constitute printable text in each set.  If a file
     passes any of these tests, its character set is reported.  ASCII,
     ISO-8859-x, UTF-8, and extended-ASCII files are identified as ``text''
     because they will be mostly readable on nearly any terminal; UTF-16 and
     EBCDIC are only ``character data'' because, while they contain text, it
     is text that will require translation before it can be read.  In addi-
     tion, file will attempt to determine other characteristics of text-type
     files.  If the lines of a file are terminated by CR, CRLF, or NEL,
     instead of the Unix-standard LF, this will be reported.  Files that con-
     tain embedded escape sequences or overstriking will also be identified.

     Once file has determined the character set used in a text-type file, it
     will attempt to determine in what language the file is written.  The lan-
     guage tests look for particular strings (cf.  <names.h> ) that can appear
     anywhere in the first few blocks of a file.  For example, the keyword .br
     indicates that the file is most likely a troff(1) input file, just as the
     keyword struct indicates a C program.  These tests are less reliable than
     the previous two groups, so they are performed last.  The language test
     routines also test for some miscellany (such as tar(1) archives).

     Any file that cannot be identified as having been written in any of the
     character sets listed above is simply said to be ``data''.

     -b, --brief
             Do not prepend filenames to output lines (brief mode).

     -c, --checking-printout
             Cause a checking printout of the parsed form of the magic file.
             This is usually used in conjunction with the -m flag to debug a
             new magic file before installing it.

     -C, --compile
             Write a magic.mgc output file that contains a pre-parsed version
             of the magic file or directory.

     -e, --exclude testname
             Exclude the test named in testname from the list of tests made to
             determine the file type. Valid test names are:

                Check for EMX application type (only on EMX).

                Check for various types of ascii files.

                Don't look for, or inside compressed files.

                Don't print elf details.

                Don't look for fortran sequences inside ascii files.

                Don't consult magic files.

                Don't examine tar files.

                Don't look for known tokens inside ascii files.

                Don't look for troff sequences inside ascii files.

     -f, --files-from namefile
             Read the names of the files to be examined from namefile (one per
             line) before the argument list.  Either namefile or at least one
             filename argument must be present; to test the standard input,
             use '-' as a filename argument.

     -F, --separator separator
             Use the specified string as the separator between the filename
             and the file result returned. Defaults to ':'.

     -h, --no-dereference
             option causes symlinks not to be followed (on systems that sup-
             port symbolic links). This is the default if the environment
             variable POSIXLY_CORRECT is not defined.

     -i, --mime
             Causes the file command to output mime type strings rather than
             the more traditional human readable ones. Thus it may say
             ``text/plain charset=us-ascii'' rather than ``ASCII text''.  In
             order for this option to work, file changes the way it handles
             files recognized by the command itself (such as many of the text
             file types, directories etc), and makes use of an alternative
             ``magic'' file.  (See ``FILES'' section, below).

     --mime-type, --mime-encoding
             Like -i, but print only the specified element(s).

     -k, --keep-going
             Don't stop at the first match, keep going. Subsequent matches
             will be have the string ``\012- '' prepended.  (If you want a
             newline, see the ``-r'' option.)

     -L, --dereference
             option causes symlinks to be followed, as the like-named option
             in ls(1) (on systems that support symbolic links).  This is the
             default if the environment variable POSIXLY_CORRECT is defined.

     -m, --magic-file list
             Specify an alternate list of files and directories containing
             magic.  This can be a single item, or a colon-separated list.  If
             a compiled magic file is found alongside a file or directory, it
             will be used instead.

     -n, --no-buffer
             Force stdout to be flushed after checking each file.  This is
             only useful if checking a list of files.  It is intended to be
             used by programs that want filetype output from a pipe.

     -N, --no-pad
             Don't pad filenames so that they align in the output.

     -p, --preserve-date
             On systems that support utime(2) or utimes(2), attempt to pre-
             serve the access time of files analyzed, to pretend that file
             never read them.

     -r, --raw
             Don't translate unprintable characters to \ooo.  Normally file
             translates unprintable characters to their octal representation.

     -s, --special-files
             Normally, file only attempts to read and determine the type of
             argument files which stat(2) reports are ordinary files.  This
             prevents problems, because reading special files may have pecu-
             liar consequences.  Specifying the -s option causes file to also
             read argument files which are block or character special files.
             This is useful for determining the filesystem types of the data
             in raw disk partitions, which are block special files.  This
             option also causes file to disregard the file size as reported by
             stat(2) since on some systems it reports a zero size for raw disk

     -v, --version
             Print the version of the program and exit.

     -z, --uncompress
             Try to look inside compressed files.

     -0, --print0
             Output a null character '\0' after the end of the filename. Nice
             to cut(1) the output. This does not affect the separator which is
             still printed.

     --help  Print a help message and exit.

     /usr/share/file/magic.mgc  Default compiled list of magic.
     /usr/share/file/magic      Directory containing default magic files.

     The environment variable MAGIC can be used to set the default magic file
     name.  If that variable is set, then file will not attempt to open
     $HOME/.magic.  file adds ``.mgc'' to the value of this variable as appro-
     priate.  However, file has to exist in order for file.mime to be consid-
     ered.  The environment variable POSIXLY_CORRECT controls (on systems that
     support symbolic links), whether file will attempt to follow symlinks or
     not. If set, then file follows symlink, otherwise it does not. This is
     also controlled by the -L and -h options.

     magic(5), strings(1), od(1), hexdump(1,) file(1posix)

     This program is believed to exceed the System V Interface Definition of
     FILE(CMD), as near as one can determine from the vague language contained
     therein.  Its behavior is mostly compatible with the System V program of
     the same name.  This version knows more magic, however, so it will pro-
     duce different (albeit more accurate) output in many cases.

     The one significant difference between this version and System V is that
     this version treats any white space as a delimiter, so that spaces in
     pattern strings must be escaped.  For example,

           >10     string  language impress        (imPRESS data)

     in an existing magic file would have to be changed to

           >10     string  language\ impress       (imPRESS data)

     In addition, in this version, if a pattern string contains a backslash,
     it must be escaped.  For example

           0       string          \begindata      Andrew Toolkit document

     in an existing magic file would have to be changed to

           0       string          \\begindata     Andrew Toolkit document

     SunOS releases 3.2 and later from Sun Microsystems include a file command
     derived from the System V one, but with some extensions.  My version dif-
     fers from Sun's only in minor ways.  It includes the extension of the '&'
     operator, used as, for example,

           >16     long&0x7fffffff >0              not stripped

     The magic file entries have been collected from various sources, mainly
     USENET, and contributed by various authors.  Christos Zoulas (address
     below) will collect additional or corrected magic file entries.  A con-
     solidation of magic file entries will be distributed periodically.

     The order of entries in the magic file is significant.  Depending on what
     system you are using, the order that they are put together may be incor-

           $ file file.c file /dev/{wd0a,hda}
           file.c:   C program text
           file:     ELF 32-bit LSB executable, Intel 80386, version 1 (SYSV),
                     dynamically linked (uses shared libs), stripped
           /dev/wd0a: block special (0/0)
           /dev/hda: block special (3/0)

           $ file -s /dev/wd0{b,d}
           /dev/wd0b: data
           /dev/wd0d: x86 boot sector

           $ file -s /dev/hda{,1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10}
           /dev/hda:   x86 boot sector
           /dev/hda1:  Linux/i386 ext2 filesystem
           /dev/hda2:  x86 boot sector
           /dev/hda3:  x86 boot sector, extended partition table
           /dev/hda4:  Linux/i386 ext2 filesystem
           /dev/hda5:  Linux/i386 swap file
           /dev/hda6:  Linux/i386 swap file
           /dev/hda7:  Linux/i386 swap file
           /dev/hda8:  Linux/i386 swap file
           /dev/hda9:  empty
           /dev/hda10: empty

           $ file -i file.c file /dev/{wd0a,hda}
           file.c:      text/x-c
           file:        application/x-executable
           /dev/hda:    application/x-not-regular-file
           /dev/wd0a:   application/x-not-regular-file

     There has been a file command in every UNIX since at least Research
     Version 4 (man page dated November, 1973).  The System V version intro-
     duced one significant major change: the external list of magic types.
     This slowed the program down slightly but made it a lot more flexible.

     This program, based on the System V version, was written by Ian Darwin
     <ianATdarwinsys.com> without looking at anybody else's source code.

     John Gilmore revised the code extensively, making it better than the
     first version.  Geoff Collyer found several inadequacies and provided
     some magic file entries.  Contributions by the `&' operator by Rob McMa-
     hon, cudcvATwarwick.uk, 1989.

     Guy Harris, guyATnetapp.com, made many changes from 1993 to the present.

     Primary development and maintenance from 1990 to the present by Christos
     Zoulas (christosATastron.com).

     Altered by Chris Lowth, chrisATlowth.com, 2000: Handle the -i option to
     output mime type strings, using an alternative magic file and internal

     Altered by Eric Fischer (enfATpobox.com), July, 2000, to identify charac-
     ter codes and attempt to identify the languages of non-ASCII files.

     Altered by Reuben Thomas (rrtATsc3d.org), 2007 to 2008, to improve MIME
     support and merge MIME and non-MIME magic, support directories as well as
     files of magic, apply many bug fixes and improve the build system.

     The list of contributors to the ``magic'' directory (magic files) is too
     long to include here.  You know who you are; thank you.  Many contribu-
     tors are listed in the source files.

     Copyright (c) Ian F. Darwin, Toronto, Canada, 1986-1999.  Covered by the
     standard Berkeley Software Distribution copyright; see the file
     LEGAL.NOTICE in the source distribution.

     The files tar.h and is_tar.c were written by John Gilmore from his pub-
     lic-domain tar(1) program, and are not covered by the above license.

     There must be a better way to automate the construction of the Magic file
     from all the glop in Magdir.  What is it?

     file uses several algorithms that favor speed over accuracy, thus it can
     be misled about the contents of text files.

     The support for text files (primarily for programming languages) is sim-
     plistic, inefficient and requires recompilation to update.

     The list of keywords in ascmagic probably belongs in the Magic file.
     This could be done by using some keyword like '*' for the offset value.

     Complain about conflicts in the magic file entries.  Make a rule that the
     magic entries sort based on file offset rather than position within the
     magic file?

     The program should provide a way to give an estimate of ``how good'' a
     guess is.  We end up removing guesses (e.g.  ``From '' as first 5 chars
     of file) because they are not as good as other guesses (e.g.
     ``Newsgroups:'' versus ``Return-Path:'' ).  Still, if the others don't
     pan out, it should be possible to use the first guess.

     This manual page, and particularly this section, is too long.

     file returns 0 on success, and non-zero on error.

     You can obtain the original author's latest version by anonymous FTP on
     ftp.astron.com in the directory /pub/file/file-X.YZ.tar.gz

     This Debian version adds a number of new magix entries. It can be
     obtained from every site carrying a Debian distribution (that is
     ftp.debian.org and mirrors).

BSD                            February 19, 2008                           BSD