Home Linux Commands Linux Bat Command – A Cat Clone With Syntax Highlighting And Git Integration

Linux Bat Command – A Cat Clone With Syntax Highlighting And Git Integration

Bat Command: The Better Alternative to cat Command to View Text Files in the Terminal in Linux.

By sk

In Linux and Unix-like systems, the 'cat' command is used to print and concatenate files. Using cat command, we can print the contents of a file to the standard output, concatenate several files into the target file, and append several files into the target file. Today, I stumbled upon a similar utility named "Bat". Bat is just a clone to the cat command, with some additional cool features such as syntax highlighting, git integration and automatic paging etc. In this guide, we will discuss what is Bat, how to install Bat in Linux, and how to use Bat command in Linux and Unix operating systems.

What is Bat Command?

Bat is a command-line tool that displays the contents of a file in the terminal. It is a clone of the cat command, but it has some additional features, such as syntax highlighting and line numbering. The "wings" in the name refer to these additional features.

In simple terms, Bat is a more powerful and versatile version of the cat command. It is a great tool for programmers and other technical users who need to view and edit text files.

Bat is free and opensource program written in Rust programming language.

If you are looking for a powerful and versatile command-line tool for viewing and editing text files, then Bat is a great option. It is easy to use and has a lot of features that can make your life easier.

Bat Features

Here are some of the features of Bat:

  • Syntax highlighting: Bat can automatically highlight the syntax of different programming languages, making it easier to read and understand code.
  • Line numbering: Bat can number the lines of a file, which can be helpful for debugging and troubleshooting.
  • Formatting options: Bat allows you to customize the formatting of the text output, such as the font, size, and color.
  • Git integration: Bat can integrate with Git to show file modifications. This can be helpful for tracking changes to code.
  • Automatic Paging: When you use bat to view a long file, it automatically divides the content into pages, allowing you to scroll through them easily. This is more convenient than having to scroll through everything all at once.
  • Themes and Styles: You can customize the way bat displays files by choosing different color themes and styles. This lets you personalize your viewing experience according to your preferences.
  • Binary File Handling: bat can also display binary files in a readable format, which can be useful for examining the content of binary files like images or compiled programs.
  • Extension Detection: It can automatically detect the type of file you're viewing based on its extension and apply the appropriate syntax highlighting.
  • Integration with Other Tools: bat can work alongside other tools and commands, making it a versatile choice for viewing file content while also taking advantage of other command-line utilities.
  • Drop-in replacement for cat: Bat can be used as a drop-in replacement for the cat command. This means that you can use Bat to do everything that cat can do, plus more.

Install Bat on Linux

Bat is packaged for popular Linux operating systems.

Alpine Linux:

Bat is available in the official repositories of Alpine Linux. To install bat on Alpine Linux, run:

$ sudo apk add bat

Arch Linux:

Bat is available in the default repositories of Arch Linux. So, you can install it using pacman on any arch-based systems.

$ sudo pacman -S bat

Debian-based systems:

bat has been available for Ubuntu since version 20.04 ("Focal") and for Debian since August 2021 (Debian 11 - "Bullseye").

If you're using a recent Ubuntu or Debian version, you can easily install it with the following command:

$ sudo apt install bat

Please be aware that when you install bat this way, the executable might be named batcat instead of bat (due to a naming conflict with another package).

To avoid potential issues and maintain consistency across distributions, you can create a symlink or an alias:

Create a directory for local binaries (if it doesn't exist):

$ mkdir -p ~/.local/bin

Create a symlink or an alias to use bat instead of batcat:

For symlink:

$ ln -s /usr/bin/batcat ~/.local/bin/bat

For alias (add this line to your shell configuration file, like ~/.bashrc or ~/.zshrc):

alias bat='batcat'

If you want to install the latest .deb version on Debian, Ubuntu, Linux Mint, Pop_OS! systems, download the .deb file from the Releases page and install it as shown below.

$ wget https://github.com/sharkdp/bat/releases/download/v0.11.0/bat_0.11.0_amd64.deb
$ sudo apt install gdebi
$ sudo gdebi bat_0.11.0_amd64.deb


You can install bat with zypper like below:

$ sudo zypper install bat

Using Nix package manager:

In NixOS, you can install bat using nix package manager:

$ nix-env -i bat


Bat can be installed from the official Fedora Modular repository.

$ sudo dnf install bat


emerge sys-apps/bat

Void Linux:

You can install bat via xbps-install:

$ sudo xbps-install -S bat


You can install a precompiled bat package with pkg:

# pkg install bat

Or build it from the FreeBSD ports:

# cd /usr/ports/textproc/bat
# make install

Using Cargo package manager from source:

Make sure you have installed Rust 1.26 or higher.

Then, run the following command to install Bat:

$ cargo install bat

Using Linuxbrew:

Alternatively, you can install it using Linuxbrew package manager.

$ brew install bat

Bat Command Usage

The Bat command's usage is very similar to cat command.

To create a new file using bat, do:

$ bat > file.txt

To view the contents of a file using bat, run:

$ bat file.txt

You can also view multiple files at once:

$ bat file1.txt file2.txt

To append the contents of the multiple files in a single file:

$ bat file1.txt file2.txt file3.txt > document.txt

Like I already mentioned, apart from viewing and editing files, the Bat utility has some additional cool features though.

Syntax Highlighting

Bat supports syntax highlighting for large number of programming and markup languages. For instance, look at the following example.

I am going to display the contents of the reverse.py file using both cat and bat commands.

cat and bat command output comparison
cat and bat command output comparison

Did you notice the difference? The cat command shows the contents of the file in plain text format, whereas Bat shows output with syntax highlighting, order number in a neat tabular column format. Much better, isn't it?

Display Only Line Numbers

If you want to display only the line numbers (not the tabular column), use -n flag.

$ bat -n reverse.py

Sample output:

bat command output without tabular column
bat command output without tabular column

Automatic Paging

Another notable feature of Bat command is it supports automatic paging. That means if output of a file is too large for one screen, the bat command automatically pipes its own output to less command, so you can view the output page by page.

Let me show you an example.

When you view the contents of a file which spans multiple pages using cat command, the prompt quickly jumps to the last page of the file, and you do not see the content in the beginning or in the middle.

Have a look at the following output:

cat command output
cat command output

As you can see, the cat command displays last page of the file.

So, you may need to pipe the output of the cat command to less command to view it's contents page by page from the beginning.

$ cat reverse.py | less

Now, you can view output page by page by hitting the ENTER key. However, it is not necessary if you use bat command. The bat command will automatically pipe the output of a file which spans multiple pages.

$ bat reverse.py

Sample output:

Bat command supports automatic paging
Bat command supports automatic paging

Now hit the ENTER key to go to the next page.

Git Integration

The bat command also supports GIT integration, so you can view/edit the files in your Git repository without much hassle. It communicates with git to show modifications with respect to the index (see left side bar).

Git integration With Bat command
Git integration With Bat command

Bat also have the option to control the appearance of the output. To do so, use the --style option. To show only Git changes and line numbers but no grid and no file header, use --style=numbers,changes.

Display Non-printable Characters

To show non-printable characters in a file using the bat command, you can use the -A or --show-all option. Here's an example:

$ bat -A file.txt

Replace file.txt with the path to the file you want to view.

This command will display the content of the file along with non-printable characters highlighted. Non-printable characters might include things like tabs, line breaks, special control characters, and more.

Keep in mind that the appearance of non-printable characters might vary depending on your terminal and the color scheme you're using with bat.

How to Integrate Bat Command with Other Tools?

Here are step-by-step examples of how to integrate the bat command with various other tools:

Integration with fzf (Command-Line Fuzzy Finder):

fzf is a tool for searching and selecting items from a list interactively. You can use bat as a previewer for fzf to display file contents while navigating.

$ fzf --preview "bat --color=always --style=numbers --line-range=:500 {}"

In this example, fzf will show a preview of file contents using bat for any selected file.

Integration with find (Search Files) and xargs:

find is used to search for files in a directory hierarchy. You can use bat to preview search results.

$ find /path/to/search -name "*.txt" -exec bat {} +

This command will find all .txt files in the specified directory and its subdirectories, then use bat to preview their contents.

Integration with ripgrep (Recursive Text Search):

ripgrep is a fast recursive text search tool. You can use bat as the printer for ripgrep search results.

$ batgrep "search term" /path/to/search

This command will use ripgrep to search for the specified term in the given path and then print the search results using bat.

Integration with tail -f (Continuous Log Monitoring):

tail -f is used to monitor log files in real-time. You can use bat to continuously monitor log files with syntax highlighting.

$ tail -f /var/log/syslog | bat --paging=never -l log

This command will display the contents of the syslog file using bat, keeping the syntax highlighting intact while continuously monitoring updates.

Integration with git show (Viewing File from Git History):

git show displays information about a specific commit. You can use bat to view the contents of a file from a specific commit.

$ git show commit_hash:path/to/file | bat -l language

Replace commit_hash with the desired commit's hash and path/to/file with the file's path. language should be replaced with the appropriate language for syntax highlighting.

Integration with git diff (Viewing Git Changes):

You can use bat to view the changes made in a Git diff output.

$ git diff --color=always | bat --paging=never --diff

This command will display the colorized Git diff using bat, without paging, and indicating that it's a diff.

Integration with xclip (Copying to Clipboard):

You can use xclip to copy the output of bat to the clipboard.

$ bat file.txt | xclip -selection clipboard

This command will send the contents of file.txt through bat and then copy the result to the clipboard using xclip.

Remember to adjust file paths, options, and arguments based on your specific use case and preferences.

Customizing Bat Command Theme

If you don't like the default themes, you can change it too. Bat has option for that too.

To list the available themes, just run:

$ bat --list-themes
Monokai Extended
Monokai Extended Bright
Monokai Extended Light
Monokai Extended Origin

To use a different theme, for example TwoDark, run:

$ bat --theme=TwoDark file.txt

If you want to make the theme permanent, use export BAT_THEME="TwoDark" in your shell's startup file.

You can read the comparison of similar tools from this table. Please note that comparison is made from Bat's perspective.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here's list most commonly asked questions (FAQ) about Bat command.

Q: What is the bat command?

A: The bat command is a modern alternative to the traditional cat command used in Unix-like operating systems. It's designed to display the contents of files with syntax highlighting, line numbering, and additional features for an improved viewing experience.

Q: How do I install bat?

A: You can install bat on various systems using package managers. For instance, on systems using apt (Debian/Ubuntu), you can run: sudo apt install bat

Q: What features does bat offer?

A: bat offers syntax highlighting for various programming and markup languages, line numbering, Git integration, the ability to show non-printable characters, paging for long files, color customization, and more.

Q: How do I display the content of a single file using bat?

A: To view the contents of a single file, use the bat command followed by the file's path. For example: bat README.md

Q: Can I display the contents of multiple files at once using bat?

A: Yes, you can display the contents of multiple files by providing their paths as arguments. For instance: bat file1.txt file2.txt

Q: Is it possible to display all files in a directory using bat?

A: Absolutely, you can use a wildcard * to display the contents of all files in a directory. For example: bat /path/to/directory/*

Q: How can I display files with a specific extension using bat?

A: To display files with a certain extension, use a wildcard with the desired extension. For instance: bat *.log

Q: Can I display the contents of files in subdirectories with bat?

A: Yes, you can use a double wildcard ** to display files in subdirectories. For example: bat /path/to/directory/**/*.txt

Q: How can I use bat to view specific lines of a file?

A: You can specify a range of lines to view using the --line-range option. For example, to view lines 10 to 20 of a file: bat --line-range=10:20 file.txt

Q: How do I view a specific commit's file with bat?

A: You can use git show to view a specific commit's file and then pipe it to bat for syntax highlighting:
git show commit_hash:path/to/file | bat -l language

Q: How do I display non-printable characters using bat?

A: Use the -A or --show-all option followed by the file path: bat -A file.txt

Q: Can bat be used with other tools?

A: Yes, bat can be integrated with tools like fzf (fuzzy finder), find, ripgrep, git, and more. For example, to use bat with fzf: fzf --preview "bat --color=always --style=numbers --line-range=:500 {}"

Q: Can I customize the appearance of bat's output?

A: Yes, you can customize the color themes and styles using the --theme and --style options.

For more details, refer the Bat command project GitHub page given below.


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Harish August 30, 2018 - 3:11 pm

Thank you! It is an awesome utility to view the source code. Sometimes using vim/gvim/sublime can be tiring. And cat doesn’t have syntax highlighting. I like how they have syntax highlighting and stuff. Line numbers are also great gifts.

Kamil March 16, 2022 - 2:19 pm

Thank you!


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