How do you stop the command service <name> status from using less on its output?

I have a script that automates some sysadmin actions, and after I upgraded my server to Ubuntu 16.04, it's breaking because actions that check service status are blocking because it's using something like less to show output, specifically the supervisor service.

I have several daemons configured to run, and when run sudo service supervisor status, I get:

* supervisor.service - Supervisor process control system for UNIX
   Loaded: loaded (/lib/systemd/system/supervisor.service; disabled; vendor preset: enabled)
   Active: active (running) since Mon 2017-02-06 20:35:34 EST; 12h ago
     Docs: http://supervisord.org
  Process: 18476 ExecStop=/usr/bin/supervisorctl $OPTIONS shutdown (code=exited, status=0/SUCCESS)
 Main PID: 20228 (supervisord)
   CGroup: /system.slice/supervisor.service
           |- 7387 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/python2.7 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/celery worker -A /myproject -l info --autoreload
           |- 7388 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/python2.7 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/celery worker -A /myproject -l info --autoreload
           |- 7389 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/python2.7 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/celery worker -A /myproject -l info --autoreload
           |- 7390 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/python2.7 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/celery worker -A /myproject -l info --autoreload
           |- 7391 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/python2.7 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/celery worker -A /myproject -l info --autoreload
           |- 7392 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/python2.7 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/celery worker -A /myproject -l info --autoreload
           |- 7393 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/python2.7 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/celery worker -A /myproject -l info --autoreload
           |- 7394 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/python2.7 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/celery worker -A /myproject -l info --autoreload
           |- 7395 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/python2.7 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/celery worker -A /myproject -l info --autoreload
           |- 7396 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/python2.7 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/celery worker -A /myproject -l info --autoreload
           |- 7397 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/python2.7 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/celery worker -A /myproject -l info --autoreload
           |- 7398 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/python2.7 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/celery worker -A /myproject -l info --autoreload
           |- 7678 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/python2.7 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/celery worker -A /myproject -l info --autoreload
           |- 7679 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/python2.7 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/celery worker -A /myproject -l info --autoreload
           |- 7680 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/python2.7 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/celery worker -A /myproject -l info --autoreload
           |- 7681 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/python2.7 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/celery worker -A /myproject -l info --autoreload
           |- 7682 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/python2.7 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/celery worker -A /myproject -l info --autoreload
           |- 7683 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/python2.7 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/celery worker -A /myproject -l info --autoreload
           |- 7684 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/python2.7 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/celery worker -A /myproject -l info --autoreload
           |- 7685 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/python2.7 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/celery worker -A /myproject -l info --autoreload
           |- 7693 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/python2.7 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/celery worker -A /myproject -l info --autoreload
           |- 7694 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/python2.7 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/celery worker -A /myproject -l info --autoreload
           |- 7698 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/python2.7 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/celery worker -A /myproject -l info --autoreload
           |- 7702 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/python2.7 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/celery worker -A /myproject -l info --autoreload
           |- 7703 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/python2.7 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/celery worker -A /myproject -l info --autoreload
           |- 7705 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/python2.7 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/celery worker -A /myproject -l info --autoreload
           |- 7707 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/python2.7 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/celery worker -A /myproject -l info --autoreload
           |- 7709 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/python2.7 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/celery worker -A /myproject -l info --autoreload
           |- 7710 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/python2.7 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/celery worker -A /myproject -l info --autoreload
           |- 7712 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/python2.7 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/celery worker -A /myproject -l info --autoreload
           |- 7713 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/python2.7 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/celery worker -A /myproject -l info --autoreload
           |- 7717 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/python2.7 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/celery worker -A /myproject -l info --autoreload
           |- 7720 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/python2.7 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/celery worker -A /myproject -l info --autoreload
           |- 7723 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/python2.7 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/celery worker -A /myproject -l info --autoreload
           |- 7724 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/python2.7 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/celery worker -A /myproject -l info --autoreload
           |- 7728 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/python2.7 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/celery worker -A /myproject -l info --autoreload
           |- 7730 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/python2.7 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/celery worker -A /myproject -l info --autoreload
           |- 7731 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/python2.7 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/celery worker -A /myproject -l info --autoreload
           |- 7733 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/python2.7 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/celery worker -A /myproject -l info --autoreload
           |- 7734 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/python2.7 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/celery worker -A /myproject -l info --autoreload
           |- 7735 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/python2.7 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/celery worker -A /myproject -l info --autoreload
           |- 7738 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/python2.7 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/celery worker -A /myproject -l info --autoreload
           |- 7743 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/python2.7 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/celery worker -A /myproject -l info --autoreload
           |- 7747 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/python2.7 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/celery worker -A /myproject -l info --autoreload
           |- 7748 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/python2.7 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/celery worker -A /myproject -l info --autoreload
           |- 7750 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/python2.7 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/celery worker -A /myproject -l info --autoreload
           |- 7752 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/python2.7 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/celery worker -A /myproject -l info --autoreload
           |- 7756 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/python2.7 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/celery worker -A /myproject -l info --autoreload
           |- 7758 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/python2.7 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/celery worker -A /myproject -l info --autoreload
           |- 7761 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/python2.7 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/celery worker -A /myproject -l info --autoreload
           |- 7763 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/python2.7 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/celery worker -A /myproject -l info --autoreload
           |- 7764 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/python2.7 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/celery worker -A /myproject -l info --autoreload
           |- 7772 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/python2.7 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/celery worker -A /myproject -l info --autoreload
           |- 7781 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/python2.7 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/celery worker -A /myproject -l info --autoreload
           |- 7785 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/python2.7 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/celery worker -A /myproject -l info --autoreload
           |- 7794 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/python2.7 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/celery worker -A /myproject -l info --autoreload
           |- 7799 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/python2.7 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/celery worker -A /myproject -l info --autoreload
           |- 7801 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/python2.7 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/celery worker -A /myproject -l info --autoreload
           |- 7805 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/python2.7 /usr/local//myproject/.env/bin/celery worker -A /myproject -l info --autoreload
lines 1-66

And it doesn't return until I manually scroll down or press Q to exit. How do I disable this feature?

4 Answers 4


Ubuntu is a systemd system, where the service status command actually calls systemctl status, and systemctl has a --no-pager option that does exactly what you're looking for. So you may be better off using the straight systemctl command in your script.

sudo systemctl --no-pager status supervisor

environment variable SYSTEMD_PAGER

Another way, as pointed out by @jwodder, is to set the SYSTEMD_PAGER environment variable. This has the added benefit of also affecting the output of systemctl when called by another application like service.

sudo service supervisor status

Will allow you to achieve the same output.

  • 2
    I'd like to suggest putting the option before the command: sudo systemctl --no-pager status supervisor
    – Jeff Schaller
    Commented Feb 7, 2017 at 15:26
  • edited to match your suggestion. good to follow intended use of tools. thanks. Commented Feb 7, 2017 at 15:37
  • 2
    "Ubuntu is a systemd system" ... when Upstart is not in use that is
    – cat
    Commented Feb 7, 2017 at 17:46
  • 7
    To make systemctl always behave like --no-pager is given, you can set the SYSTEMD_PAGER environment variable to either cat or the empty string.
    – jwodder
    Commented Feb 7, 2017 at 17:46
  • 1
    I have never seen a pager with my openSUSE installations, but $SYSTEMD_PAGER is not set, $PAGER has a value of less, and systemctl has no alias. On the other hand, my Arch system hasn't set anything, either, but appears to use the pager on every systemctl output. Does systemctl have yet another configuration hook for the pager somewhere?
    – palswim
    Commented Sep 15, 2017 at 22:43

less will normally turn its pager mode off if it detects that its output is not a terminal. So you could try making your command's output not-a-terminal by running something like:

sudo service supervisor status | cat
  • 4
    This answer is good because it's generic. Tim Kennedy's answer is good because it is specific to systemctl. I upvoted both. Commented Feb 7, 2017 at 18:28
  • 1
    I was almost about to delete my answer in favor of the other one, but I see how the generic knowledge tidbit can be valuable. For the record, I think the other answer should be the one to be accepted.
    – dhag
    Commented Feb 7, 2017 at 19:08
  • I'll always choose the more generic answer, all other things being equal. This is exactly what I'd do on RHEL if the back-end command were going to less and I didn't want that behavior. Of course, if I were doing this in a script that greps out something like the " Active:" line, it already wouldn't be going to terminal, and this problem wouldn't even exist. Commented Feb 7, 2017 at 20:42
  • 1
    It's not less turning off anything. It's systemctl not invoking a pager in the first place when its standard output is not a terminal.
    – JdeBP
    Commented Feb 9, 2017 at 16:40
  • 1
    @MontyHarder besides the fact that you probably shouldn't grep out the Active: line because you can just check exit code of systemctl status (really you should use systemctl show in a script instead of status) or systemctl is-{active,failed}, which will tell you without any of this parsing BS :) Commented Feb 12, 2017 at 4:53

From man systemctl:

       Pager to use when --no-pager is not given; overrides $PAGER.
       Setting this to an empty string or the value "cat" is equivalent to
       passing --no-pager.

       Override the default options passed to less ("FRSXMK").

So, somewhere in your environment initialization, set:

  • Nice. This nice thing about that, is that setting SYSTEMD_PAGER also affects other programs that call systemctl! so now, service supervisor status exhibits the same behavior. Commented Feb 8, 2017 at 14:47
  • 1
    @Toby sorry, but I prefer my manpages in code blocks.
    – muru
    Commented Feb 8, 2017 at 15:11

You will also need to modify your sudoers file:

 Defaults        env_keep += "SYSTEMD_PAGER"
  • This is very useful information.. was getting irritated over the fact that after switching the SYSTEMD_PAGER, sudo systemctl status <service> was still paged.. +1 Commented Sep 1, 2018 at 5:06

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