I have a bunch of files with the same extension (let's say .txt) and I would like to concatenate them. I am using cat *.txt > concat.txt, but I would like to add a new line between each file so to distinguish them in concat.txt.

Is it possible to do it with a single bash command rather than an implementation such as this?

Thank you


7 Answers 7


Using GNU sed:

sed -s -e $'$a\\\n' ./*.txt >concat.out

This concatenates all data to concat.out while at the same time appending an empty line to the end of each file processed.

The -s option to GNU sed makes the $ address match the last line in each file instead of, as usual, the last line of all data. The a command appends one or several lines at the given location, and the data added is a newline. The newline is encoded as $'\n', i.e. as a "C-string", which means we're using a shell that understands these (like bash or zsh). This would otherwise have to be added as a literal newline:

sed -s -e '$a\
' ./*.txt >concat.out

Actually, '$a\\' and '$a\ ' seems to work too, but I'm not entirely sure why.

This also work, if one thinks the a command is too bothersome to get right:

sed -s -e '${p;g;}' ./*.txt >concat.out

Any of these variation would insert an empty line at the end of the output of the last file too. If this final newline is not wanted, deletede it by passing the overall result through sed '$d' before redirecting to your output file:

sed -s -e '${p;g;}' ./*.txt | sed -e '$d' >concat.out
  • 1
    @StéphaneChazelas You know, GNU software tries to be so convenient that it's sometimes difficult to understand the magic that they implement...
    – Kusalananda
    Jan 11, 2021 at 15:59
  • @StéphaneChazelas. sed -s -e $'a\\\n' adds an extra newline to every line of every file - not just the last line of each file. It is not equivalent to sed -s -e '${p;g;}'
    – fpmurphy
    Jan 12, 2021 at 6:15
  • @Kusalananda. sed -s -e $'$a\n' ./*.txt >concat.out results in an extra newline at the end of concat.out. The OP wanted a newline between each file only.
    – fpmurphy
    Jan 12, 2021 at 6:18
  • @fpmurphy, sorry, I meant $'$a\\\n', the point being that $'$a\n' is $a<newline>, not $a<backslash><newline> like in the variant not using $'...'. Jan 12, 2021 at 6:26
  • @fpmurphy I'm aware that they get an extra newline at the end, and I'm ignoring it as it's trivial to remove it. Hmmm... I might mention how to do that anyway... Stephane was referring to a previous edit of my text that did not have the p;g; variation.
    – Kusalananda
    Jan 12, 2021 at 6:33

Not a single command, but a simple one-liner:

for f in *.txt; do cat -- "$f"; printf "\n"; done > newfile.txt

That will give this error:

cat: newfile.txt: input file is output file

But you can ignore it, at least on GNU/Linux systems. Stéphane Chazelas pointed out in the comments that apparently, on other systems this could result in an infinite loop instead, so to avoid it, try:

for f in *.txt; do 
    [[ "$f" = newfile.txt ]] || { cat -- "$f"; printf "\n"; }
done > newfile.txt

Or just don't add a .txt extension to the output file (it isn't needed and doesn't make any difference at all, anyway) so that it won't be included in the loop:

for f in *.txt; do cat -- "$f"; printf "\n"; done > newfile
  • 1
    Not all cat implementations will give you that input file is output file. Some others will happily run here potentially causing an infinite loop that fills up the filesystem. Jan 11, 2021 at 15:36
  • Note that [[ "$f" = "newfile.txt" ]] is a kshism. POSIXly, you'd use [ "$f" = newfile.txt ]. Jan 11, 2021 at 15:38
  • @StéphaneChazelas wait, what? That's a cat issue? I always thought it was the shell, not cat. Then why doesn't cat file1 file2 > file1 complain? As for the quotes, thanks fixed. Having unquoted strings feels weird to me.
    – terdon
    Jan 11, 2021 at 15:45
  • 1
    For cat file > file, I suppose your cat detects file is empty and does nothing instead of reporting an error. Solaris cat still reports an error there. Note how the error message starts with cat:. I can't see how the shell could detect the condition. Jan 11, 2021 at 15:50
  • @StéphaneChazelas looks like you're right, unsurprisingly enough. This will reproduce the error: ( echo foo> newfile.txt; cat newfile.txt; ) > newfile.txt while this does not ( cat newfile.txt ) > newfile.txt. So my cat (GNU coreutils, 8.32) seems to detect that the file is empty and doesn't complain in the second one. TIL, thanks!
    – terdon
    Jan 11, 2021 at 16:01

zsh has a P glob qualifier to prefix each filename resulting from a glob with an arbitrary argument.

While it's typically used for things like cmd *.txt(P[-i]) to prefix each filename with a given option, you could use here to insert any given file before each file. A temporary file containing an empty line could be done with =(print), so you could do:

() { cat file*.txt(P[$1]); } =(print)

On Linux or Cygwin, you could also do:

cat file*.txt(P[/dev/stdin]) <<< ''

Using GNU awk:

gawk -v RS='^$' -v ORS= '{
    print sep $0; sep="\n";
}' ./file*.txt >single.file

see Slurp-mode in awk?

prefix dot-slash in files name ./ is used to avoid problems with files named like file=x.txt for instance as awk do reading these kind of strings as a variable when these come after awk codes;

Another GNU awk approach would be:

gawk 'BEGINFILE{if (ARGIND>1) print ""};1' ./file*.txt >single.txt

which is better as it would add an empty line even if the last line doesn't end in a newline character and would avoid loading the whole files in memory.

there is also a sed alternative, but to remove very last \newline, you should add another pipe sed ... | to remove that.

sed -s '$s/$/\n/' file*.txt >single.file

Perhaps not exactly what you were looking for, but like Quasímodo suggested in a comment, GNU's tail can add the empty line, in addition to a header with the filename:

$ echo 'this is foo' > foo.txt 
$ echo 'this is bar' > bar.txt   
$ tail -n+1 foo.txt bar.txt 
==> foo.txt <==
this is foo

==> bar.txt <==
this is bar

The -n+1 causes it to print the whole file; it means "print the tail starting from line 1."

If you want the header to be added even when there is only one file for consistency, you can use -v.

$ tail -n+1 foo.txt        
this is foo
$ tail -v -n+1 foo.txt 
==> foo.txt <==
this is foo

This does not work in POSIX /bin/sh, but in bash:

cat file1 <(echo) file2 >concatenated

The <(echo) is replaced by a temporary named pipe that is connected to the output of the echo command, which generates a single newline.

  • 1
    ... but it will only work easily for two files, and the OP seems to have "a bunch" of them. Maybe you can expand the answer to show how to make this into a shell script accepting "an arbitrary" number of input files?
    – AdminBee
    Jan 13, 2021 at 11:07

An example using Perl.

$ perl -e 'while(<>){print}continue{print"\n" if eof}' *.txt > concat.txt

which can be simplified to

$ perl -ne 'print; print "\n" if eof' [abc].txt > concat.txt

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