NAME file - determine file type

SYNOPSIS file [ -bchikLnNprsvz ] [ -f namefile ] [ -F separator ] [ -m magic- files ] file ... file -C [ -m magicfile ]

DESCRIPTION This manual page documents version 4.17 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 number 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 contains the result of compiling a program in a form understand- able 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 modifying the file /usr/share/file/magic or the pro- gram itself, preserve these keywords . People depend on knowing that all the readable files in a directory have the word text printed. Dont do as Berkeley did and change shell commands text to shell script. Note that the file /usr/share/file/magic is built mechani- cally from a large number of small files in the subdirectory Magdir in the source distribution of this program.

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 its some sort of special file. Any known file types appropriate to the system 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 number tests are used to check for files with data in partic- ular fixed formats. The canonical example of this is a binary exe- cutable (compiled program) a.out file, whose format is defined in 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 executable, and which of several types thereof. The concept of magic number has been applied by extension to data files. Any file with some invariant identifier at a small fixed offset into the file can usually be described in this way. The information identi- fying these files is read from the compiled magic file /usr/share/file/magic.mgc , or /usr/share/file/magic if the compile file does not exist. In addition file will look in $HOME/.magic.mgc , or $HOME/.magic for magic entries.

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 Macin- tosh and IBM PC systems), UTF-8-encoded Unicode, UTF-16-encoded Uni- code, 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 iden- tified 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 addition, file will attempt to determine other charac- teristics 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 contain 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 language 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.

OPTIONS -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 -m to debug a new magic file before installing it.

-C, --compile Write a magic.mgc output file that contains a pre-parsed ver- sion of file.

-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 stan- dard 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 han- dles files recognised 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).

-k, --keep-going Dont stop at the first match, keep going.

-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 containing magic numbers. This can be a single file, or a colon-separated list of files. If a compiled magic file is found alongside, it will be used instead. With the -i or --mime option, the program adds ".mime" to each file name.

-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(2) never read them.

-r, --raw Don t translate unprintable characters to . Normally file translates unprintable characters to their octal representa- tion.

-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 partitions.

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

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

--help Print a help message and exit.

FILES /usr/share/file/magic.mgc Default compiled list of magic numbers

/usr/share/file/magic Default list of magic numbers

/usr/share/file/magic.mime.mgc Default compiled list of magic numbers, used to output mime types when the -i option is specified.

/usr/share/file/magic.mime Default list of magic numbers, used to output mime types when the -i option is specified.

ENVIRONMENT The environment variable MAGIC can be used to set the default magic number file name. If that variable is set, then file will not attempt to open $HOME/.magic . file adds ".mime" and/or ".mgc" to the value of this variable as appropriate. The environment variable POSIXLY_CORRECT controls (on systems that support symbolic links), if 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.

SEE ALSO magic(5) - description of magic file format. strings(1), od(1), hexdump(1) - tools for examining non-textfiles.

STANDARDS CONFORMANCE This program is believed to exceed the System V Interface Definition of FILE(CMD), as near as one can determine from the vague language con- tained therein. Its behaviour is mostly compatible with the System V program of the same name. This version knows more magic, however, so it will produce 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 g i n d a 0 string tw Toolkit document a A n d r 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(1) command derived from the System V one, but with some extensions. My version differs from Sun s only in minor ways. It includes the exten- sion of the & operator, used as, for example, >16 long&0x7fffffff >0 not stripped

MAGIC DIRECTORY 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 incorrect. If your old file command uses a magic file, keep the old magic file around for comparison purposes (rename it to /usr/share/file/magic.orig).

EXAMPLES $ 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, dynamically linked (uses shared libs), not stripped /dev/hda: application/x-not-regular-file /dev/wd0a: application/x-not-regular-file

HISTORY 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 number 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 <> 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 McMahon,, 1989.

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

Primary development and maintenance from 1990 to the present by Chris- tos Zoulas (

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

Altered by Eric Fischer (, July, 2000, to identify char- acter codes and attempt to identify the languages of non-ASCII files.

The list of contributors to the "Magdir" directory (source for the /usr/share/file/magic file) is too long to include here. You know who you are; thank you.

LEGAL NOTICE 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 program, and are not covered by the above license.

BUGS There must be a better way to automate the construction of the Magic file from all the glop in magdir. What is it? Better yet, the magic file should be compiled into binary (say, ndbm(3) or, better yet, fixed-length ASCII strings for use in heterogenous network environ- ments) for faster startup. Then the program would run as fast as the Version 7 program of the same name, with the flexibility of the System V version.

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 simplistic, inefficient and requires recompilation to update.

There should be an else clause to follow a series of continuation lines.

The magic file and keywords should have regular expression support. Their use of ASCII TAB as a field delimiter is ugly and makes it hard to edit the files, but is entrenched.

It might be advisable to allow upper-case letters in keywords for e.g., troff(1) commands vs man page macros. Regular expression support would make this easy.

The program doesn t grok FORTRAN. It should be able to figure FORTRAN by seeing some keywords which appear indented at the start of line. Regular expression support would make this easy.

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.

Another optimisation would be to sort the magic file so that we can just run down all the tests for the first byte, first word, first long, etc, once we have fetched it. 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. News- groups: versus Return-Path:). Still, if the others dont pan out, it should be possible to use the first guess.

This program is slower than some vendors file commands. The new sup- port for multiple character codes makes it even slower.

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

RETURN CODE Returns 0 on success, and non-zero on error.

If the file named by the file operand does not exist, cannot be read, or the type of the file named by the file operand cannot be determined, this is not be considered an error that affects the exit status.

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

Copyright but distributable FILE(1)