I'm looking to write a script that takes a .txt filename as an argument, reads the file line by line, and passes each line to a command. For example, it runs command --option "LINE 1", then command --option "LINE 2", etc. The output of the command is written to another file. How do I go about doing that? I don't know where to start.


Use while read loop:

: > another_file  ## Truncate file.

while read -r LINE; do
    command --option "$LINE" >> another_file
done < file

Another is to redirect output by block:

while read -r LINE; do
    command --option "$LINE"
done < file > another_file

Last is to open the file:

exec 4> another_file

while read -r LINE; do
    command --option "$LINE" >&4
    echo xyz  ## Another optional command that sends output to stdout.
done < file

If one of the commands reads input, it would be a good idea to use another fd for input so the commands won't eat it (here assuming ksh, zsh or bash for -u 3, use <&3 instead portably):

while read -ru 3 LINE; do
done 3< file

Finally to accept arguments, you can do:



exec 4> "$ANOTHER_FILE"

while read -ru 3 LINE; do
    command --option "$LINE" >&4
done 3< "$FILE"

Which one could run as:

bash script.sh file another_file

Extra idea. With bash, use readarray:

readarray -t LINES < "$FILE"
for LINE in "${LINES[@]}"; do

Note: It's not necessary to reset value of IFS (i.e. IFS= read) when only using a single parameter.


Another option is xargs.

With GNU xargs:

< file xargs -I{} -d'\n' command --option {} other args

{} is the place holder for the line of text.

Other xargs don't have -d, but some have -0 for NUL-delimited input. With those, you can do:

< file tr '\n' '\0' | xargs -0 -I{} command --option {} other args

On Unix-conformant systems (-I is optional in POSIX and only required for Unix-conformant systems), you'd need to preprocess the input to quote the lines in the format expected by xargs:

< file sed 's/"/"\\""/g;s/.*/"&"/' |
  xargs -E '' -I{} command --option {} other args

However note that some xargs implementations have a very low limit on the maximum size of the argument (255 on Solaris for instance, the minimum allowed by the Unix specification).

  • reducible to <file xargs -L 1 -I{} command --option {} other args – iruvar Aug 12 '14 at 12:13
  • @iruvar, no, that would process quotes and remove some blanks. – Stéphane Chazelas Jul 18 '16 at 14:40

Keeping precisely to the question:


# xargs -n param sets how many lines from the input to send to the command

# Call command once per line
[[ -f $1 ]] && cat $1 | xargs -n1 command --option

# Call command with 2 lines as args, such as an openvpn password file
# [[ -f $1 ]] && cat $1 | xargs -n2 command --option

# Call command with all lines as args
# [[ -f $1 ]] && cat $1 | xargs command --option
  • 1
    worked like charm :-) – BugHunter Sep 11 '18 at 14:29

The best answer I found is:

for i in `cat`; do $cmd $i; done < $file
  • 2
    This will invoke the command once for each word in the file.  Also, you should always quote references to shell variables (as in do "$cmd" "$i";) unless you have a reason not to; if the file contained a * as a word by itself, your code would run $cmd *, which, of course, would run the command with a list of the files in the current directory. – G-Man Jun 7 '15 at 5:13
  • @G-Man, except in zsh, the `cat` would already expand the * (the unquoted $i could still expand some wildcard (a second round) if the expansion of `cat` introduces some). In any case, that approach is wrong indeed. – Stéphane Chazelas Jul 18 '16 at 15:23
  • +1. This will work fine, if each line contains only the input needed for the command being used without spaces. – Subin Sebastian Mar 12 '17 at 6:02
  • This acts on each word, is there a variant of this that acts on each line? – thebunnyrules Jan 3 '18 at 9:33
  • The question was to process a list of filenames line by line. – Steffen Roller Jan 3 '18 at 13:51
    sed "s/'/'\\\\''/g;s/.*/\$* '&'/" <<\FILE |\
    sh -s -- command echo --option
all of the{&}se li$n\es 'are safely shell
quoted and handed to command as its last argument
following --option, and, here, before that echo


--option all of the{&}se li$n\es 'are safely shell
--option quoted and handed to command as its last argument
--option following --option, and, here, before that echo
ed file.txt
%g/^/s// /
chmod 755 file.txt

Take all the lines of a file and pass them as arguments to a single command i.e.,

command line1 line2 line3 ....

If you need the --option flag to precede each line change the second command to:

%g/^/s// --option /
  • 1
    What -1 for using ed...really? – user2217522 Nov 24 '14 at 4:58
  • 3
    I didn't downvote you, but the person who did probably had these reasons: (1) This doesn’t do what the question asks for.  This invokes the command once with all the contents of the file on the command line; rather than once per line.  (2) This does nothing to handle characters that are special to the shell (that might be in the file); e.g., ', ", <, >, ;, etc.  (3) This creates an unnecessary temporary file.  (4) Things like this are generally done with “here documents”.  (5) Your ed commands are clumsy; the first two commands can be reduced to %s/^/ / and %j. – G-Man Jun 7 '15 at 5:40

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