i can do tail -f -n20 <file> to see the last 20 lines of the file, live.

If i want to grep something, tail -f <file> | grep <pattern>, it will still be live, but will only grep through the output of tail, meaning I am not gaurunteed 20 lines of output at first. (if only 5 of 20 lines match my pattern, I only get 5 lines out of output)

If I do something like

grep <pattern> <file> | tail -n20 

I am gaurunteed 20 lines of output but it isn't live, nor is

cat <file> | grep <pattern> | tail -n20

How can I see a live update of the last n lines of a file after grepping?

  • 1
    @HaukeLaging that is incorrect. piping tail to grep will only grep out the last n lines output by tail. Imagine a file where the first 20 lines are the word "foo", the next 20 lines are the word "bar", then the next 5 lines are the word "foo". tail -f <file> yields 5 lines of bar, then 5 lines of foo, and thus tail -f <file> | grep foo gives 5 lines of foo. grep foo <file> yields 25 lines of foo, and so grep foo <file> | tail -n20 gives 20 lines of foo, so they are not the same – chiliNUT Jan 22 '16 at 17:37

You can use tee with process substitution >():

tail -f -n 20 file.log | tee >(grep 'pattern')

This will show you the last 20 lines of file.log and then the result of grep.

|improve this answer|||||
  • this isn't working, tail -f -n 20 file.log | tee yields the same output as tail -f -n 20 file.log | tee >(grep 'pattern') – chiliNUT Jan 22 '16 at 17:42
  • Which Distro and which shell are you on? Also check whether there is actually any output of the grep pattern you have given? – heemayl Jan 22 '16 at 17:51
  • I have confirmed grep gives me output. I am using the example file described in my comment above, and grepping for foo. Using: Centos 6.7 w/ bash 4.1.2 – chiliNUT Jan 22 '16 at 18:00

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