Is there a way to execute ps ax | grep java without it wrapping on the terminal?

  • which OS? Which terminal app?
    – keithosu
    Sep 2, 2009 at 18:32
  • OS X Terminal specifically, but I've bumped into this on other platforms. Sep 2, 2009 at 19:15

3 Answers 3


For me, ps doesn't wrap unless I do:

ps axw

However, you can set the screen width like this to truncate the output (but it won't override -w):

ps ax --width=80

You can also use the o (or -o or --format) option to include only columns that you are interested in, change or eliminate column headers and set the width of each column individually*. See man ps and search for "user-defined format" (multiple occurrences).

* setting a column width smaller than normal may change the way the contents or displayed or may not have an affect. For example, "args:20" doesn't truncate the output (unless it's not the last column) and "user:5" causes usernames longer than five characters to be displayed as the UID number.


I am not able to comment on Dennis Williamson's answer (maybe I have too few points for that); that's why I am writing a new answer.

You can do

ps ax --width=$COLUMNS

to get the output width adjusted according to the current terminal size. If your favorite shell does not support COLUMNS environmental variable, you can use stty:

ps ax --width=$(stty -a | grep 'columns [0-9]*;' | sed 's|.*columns \([0-9]*\).*|\1|')

or more specifically (using single awk but making stronger assumption on the stty -a output format):

ps -axw --width=$(stty -a | awk '/columns/ { printf "%d", $7 }')

All this is quite a bit of typing, so you might want to consider making the above an alias or a shell function... :-) The above maybe needs to be adjusted for your operating system (I cannot test now, I am not using OS X but Linux). I have the following output for stty -a:

speed 38400 baud; rows 42; columns 178; line = 0;
intr = ^C; quit = ^\; erase = ^?; kill = ^U; eof = ^D; eol = <undef>; eol2 = <undef>; swtch = <undef>; start = ^Q; stop = ^S; susp = ^Z; rprnt = ^R; werase = ^W; lnext = ^V;
flush = ^O; min = 1; time = 0;

Appending less -S at the end of any command would unwrap the command output on Linux terminal.

Example: 1 (Your original command appended with less -S)

ps ax | grep java | less -S

16338 ?        Sl   725:52 /usr/java/jdk1.8.0_60/bin/java -Dinstall4j.jvmDir=/usr/java/jdk1.8.0_60 -Dexe4j.moduleName=/opt/mqm/mq_mount
23137 ?        Sl   498:18 /usr/java/jdk1.8.0_60/bin/java -Dinstall4j.jvmDir=/usr/java/jdk1.8.0_60 -Dexe4j.moduleName=/opt/mqm/mq_mount
34753 ?        Sl   492:43 /usr/java/jdk1.8.0_60/bin/java -Dinstall4j.jvmDir=/usr/java/jdk1.8.0_60 -Dexe4j.moduleName=/opt/mqm/mq_mount
39519 ?        Sl   486:47 /usr/java/jdk1.8.0_60/bin/java -Dinstall4j.jvmDir=/usr/java/jdk1.8.0_60 -Dexe4j.moduleName=/opt/mqm/mq_mount
42071 ?        Sl   494:36 /usr/java/jdk1.8.0_60/bin/java -Dinstall4j.jvmDir=/usr/java/jdk1.8.0_60 -Dexe4j.moduleName=/opt/mqm/mq_mount

Example: 2. Even better, next command reveals % CPU and Memory consumption of each Java thread/Process ID.

ps aux | egrep 'java|USER' | less -S

Kathpalia   14876  0.0  0.0 103328   864 pts/0    S+   09:31   0:00 egrep java|USER
Kathpalia   16338  2.7  9.4 5932240 953984 ?      Sl   Mar22 726:00 /usr/java/jdk1.8.0_60/bin/java -Dinstall4j.jvmDir=/usr/java/jdk1.8.0_60 -Dexe4j.
Kathpalia   23137  2.3  5.3 5875976 542084 ?      Sl   Mar25 498:26 /usr/java/jdk1.8.0_60/bin/java -Dinstall4j.jvmDir=/usr/java/jdk1.8.0_60 -Dexe4j.
Kathpalia   34753  2.3  4.6 5837004 469692 ?      Sl   Mar25 492:51 /usr/java/jdk1.8.0_60/bin/java -Dinstall4j.jvmDir=/usr/java/jdk1.8.0_60 -Dexe4j.
Kathpalia   39519  2.3  4.2 5824768 429004 ?      Sl   Mar25 486:55 /usr/java/jdk1.8.0_60/bin/java -Dinstall4j.jvmDir=/usr/java/jdk1.8.0_60 -Dexe4j.
Kathpalia   42071  2.3  4.0 5825876 408612 ?      Sl   Mar25 494:44 /usr/java/jdk1.8.0_60/bin/java -Dinstall4j.jvmDir=/usr/java/jdk1.8.0_60 -Dexe4j.

It's true for any generic process:

ps aux | egrep 'MyGenericProcess|USER' | less -S

PS: For Linux 6.x or higher, grep -E can be used instead of egrep

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