Is there a simple way I can echo a file, skipping the first and last lines? I was looking at piping from head into tail, but for those it seems like I would have to know the total lines from the outset. I was also looking at split, but I don't see a way to do it with that either.

5 Answers 5


Just with sed, without any pipes :

sed '1d;$d' file.txt


  • 1 mean first line
  • d mean delete
  • ; is the separator for 2 commands
  • $ mean last line

More readable:

sed -e '1d' -e '$d' file.txt
  • Consise, but unreadable. Commented Sep 2, 2021 at 15:25

You don't need to know the number of lines in advance. tail and head can take an offset from the beginning or end of the file respectively.

This pipe starts at the second line of the file (skipping the first line) and stops at the last but one (skipping the final line). To skip more than one line at the beginning or end, adjust the numbers accordingly.

tail -n +2 file.txt | head -n -1

doing it the other way round, works the same, of course:

head -n -1 file.txt | tail -n +2
  • I don't know why, but head -n -1 removes the first AND the last line of my .txt file, on Ubuntu 14.04.2LTS. Commented Dec 22, 2015 at 23:20
  • 1
    On MacOS head -n -1 says head: illegal line count -- -1 Commented Nov 5, 2020 at 8:46
  • head -n -1 works with GNU coreutils, maybe MacOS has some BSD variant? Commented Nov 5, 2020 at 13:06
  • Thank you! Combination of tail and head lets you select exactly the lines you need - just sweet!
    – Kia Kaha
    Commented Jul 22, 2021 at 13:00

Here is how to do it with awk:

awk 'NR>2 {print t} {t=$0}'

Also another way for sed:

sed '1d;x' file.txt

x is advanced sed command, it switches current line with the previous one: current goes into the buffer and previous goes to the screen and so on while sed processing stream line by line (this is why the first line will be blank).

awk solution on each step (line) puts current line into the variable and starts printing it out only after the second line is passed by. Thus, we got shitfed sequence of lines on the screen from the second to the last but one. Last line is omitted becasue the line is in the variable and should be printed only on the next step, but all steps already run out and we never see the line on the screen.

Same idea in the perl:

perl -ne 'print $t if $.>2 ; $t=$_' file.txt

$. stands for line number and $_ for current line.
perl -n is shortcut for while(<..>) {..} structure and -e is for inline script.


For Mac users:

On Mac, head -n -1 doesn't work. Instead, reverse the file, chop off the first line, then reverse it back:

tail -r file.txt | tail -n +2 | tail -r


  1. tail -r : reverses the order of lines in its input

  2. tail -n +2 : prints all the lines starting from the second line in its input

  • It would fail with head: illegal line count -- -1 to be exact.
    – kboom
    Commented Jan 8, 2021 at 10:09
  • 2
    On Mac, you could install "coreutils" using "brew install". It allows you to use GNU commands. You just need to add 'g' add the beginning of the command. For example: instead of "head", type "ghead".
    – Supertech
    Commented Feb 23, 2021 at 23:25

In python i would do like this.

import re
import sys
file = sys.argv[1]
with open(file, 'r') as f:
    L = []
    for line in f:
        line = re.sub(r'\n', r'', line)

Paste the above code into a file and name it as script.py. Run the script against the file you want to check with.

python3 script.py /path/to/the/file


$ cat file
$ python3 script.py file
  • 1
    ''.join(list(open("/path/to/file"))[1:-1]) : This seems to be a simpler solution :-) And if you need it to be done on the command prompt directly, then you could try : python -c 'print("".join(list(open("/path/to/file"))[1:-1]))' Commented Jan 9, 2021 at 12:37

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