I just ran

cat /opt/webapplications/Word/readme.log | grep -v 'Apple'

and I got the output on the cli that I was expecting, which was all the lines in readme.log that did not contain 'Apple'...

Next I ran...

cat /opt/webapplications/Word/readme.log | grep -v 'Apple' > /opt/webapplications/Word/readme.log

However, /opt/webapplications/Word/readme.log is blank.

Can anyone explain to me why this happened, or the correct way I should have gone about this?


This happened because the first thing > does is to create the file it wants to write to - and if the file already exists, its contents will be deleted. (Also, there's no need at all to use cat in your statement since grep works on files, not just on STDIN.)

The correct way to do this is to use a temporary file either to read from or to write to. So either

cp /opt/webapplications/Word/readme.log /tmp/readme.log
grep -v 'Apple' /tmp/readme.log > /opt/webapplications/Word/readme.log


grep -v 'Apple' /opt/webapplications/Word/readme.log > /tmp/readme.log
mv /tmp/readme.log /opt/webapplications/Word/readme.log

would work.

| improve this answer | |

When doing redirect into the same file (>), shell may create/truncate the file before the cat command is invoked and the input is read (see: Why doesn't “sort file1 > file1” work?). If you want to filter the file, it's better to redirect the output into different file, or avoid redirection at all, for example:

grep -v 'Apple' readme.log | tee readme.log

The better and safer way is to use in-place editors which are designed for that kind of operations, e.g.

sed -i '.bak' '/Apple/d' readme.log

or use ex (part of Vim):

ex +g/Apple/d -cwq readme.log


| improve this answer | |

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.