By default systemd (v245) on Ubuntu 20.04 focal, if I do systemctl status $THING, and the output lines are longer than my screen, then the default pager (less?) will do horizontal scrolling. I would rather the extra text be on the following lines ("word wrap")

what environmental variable can I set to make this change from horizontal scrolling to "put the remainder of the line on the next line"?

I know that systemctl --no-pager $THING or systemctl status $THING | cat will work in this case, but that's extra text to type every time. I want systemctl status $THING to always work without having to add extra bits.

2 Answers 2


You can make no-pager permanent by exporting an empty environment variable SYSTEMD_PAGER, i.e.:


But you will notice that now systemd ellipsizes the long lines, so you must also turn this off with the -l, --full command line option. There's no environment variable to change this, unfortunately.

For a complete solution I would suggest a shell alias for systemctl, such as:

alias systemctl='systemctl --no-pager --full'

By default, systemctl spawns less as the pager (if it is available, but on most systems, it is). In this case, less is given the parameters FRSXMK, of which S is responsible for not folding long lines.

If the SYSTEMD_LESS environment variable is set, its contents are handled as the flags to be given to less, if less is the pager currently in use. So if you omit the S flag from the variable, and do an


then systemctl will behave exactly as before, except it will fold long lines.

It might be worth noting that you can switch line folding within less by typing -S and pressing enter.

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