lessfile, lesspipe - "input preprocessor" for less.
This manual page documents briefly the lessfile, and lesspipe commands. This manual page
was written for the Debian GNU/Linux distribution because the input preprocessor scripts
are provided by Debian GNU/Linux and are not part of the original program.
lessfile and lesspipe are programs that can be used to modify the way the contents of a
file are displayed in less. What this means is that less can automatically open up tar
files, uncompress gzipped files, and even display something reasonable for graphics files.
lesspipe will toss the contents/info on STDOUT and less will read them as they come
across. This means that you do not have to wait for the decoding to finish before less
shows you the file. This also means that you will get a 'byte N' instead of an N% as your
file position. You can seek to the end and back to get the N% but that means you have to
wait for the pipe to finish.
lessfile will toss the contents/info on a file which less will then read. After you are
done, lessfile will then delete the file. This means that the process has to finish
before you see it, but you get nice percentages (N%) up front.
Just put one of the following two commands in your login script (e.g. ~/.bash_profile):
FILE TYPE RECOGNITION
File types are recognized by their extensions. This is a list of currently supported
extensions (grouped by the programs that handle them):
*.gif, *.jpeg, *.jpg, *.pcd, *.png, *.tga, *.tiff, *.tif
*.iso, *.raw, *.bin
*.tar.gz, *.tgz, *.tar.z, *.tar.dz
*.gz, *.z, *.dz
*.jar, *.war, *.xpi, *.zip
USER DEFINED FILTERS
It is possible to extend and overwrite the default lesspipe and lessfile input processor
if you have specialized requirements. Create an executable program with the name .lessfil-
ter and put it into your home directory. This can be a shell script or a binary program.
It is important that this program returns the correct exit code: return 0 if your filter
handles the input, return 1 if the standard lesspipe/lessfile filter should handle the
Here is an example script:
case "$1" in
# We don't handle this format.
# No further processing by lesspipe necessary
Executable file that can do user defined processing. See section USER DEFINED FIL-
TERS for more information.
When trying to open compressed 0 byte files, less displays the actual binary file con-
tents. This is not a bug. less is designed to do that (see manual page less(1), section
INPUT PREPROCESSOR). This is the answer of Mark Nudelman <firstname.lastname@example.org>:
"I recognized when I designed it that a lesspipe filter cannot output an empty file
and have less display nothing in that case; it's a side effect of using the "no
output" case to mean "the filter has nothing to do". It could have been designed
to have some other mechanism to indicate "nothing to do", but "no output" seemed
the simplest and most intuitive for lesspipe writers."
Sometimes, less does not display the contents file you want to view but output that is
produced by your login scripts (~/.bashrc or ~/.bash_profile). This happens because less
uses your current shell to run the lesspipe filter. Bash first looks for the variable
$BASH_ENV in the environment expands its value and uses the expanded value as the name of
a file to read and execute. If this file produces any output less will display this. A way
to solve this problem is to put the following lines on the top of your login script that
if [ -z "$PS1" ]; then
This tests whether the prompt variable $PS1 is set and if it isn't (which is the case for
non-interactive shells) it will exit the script.
This manual page was written by Thomas Schoepf <email@example.com>, for the Debian
GNU/Linux system (but may be used by others). Most of the text was copied from a descrip-
tion written by Darren Stalder <firstname.lastname@example.org>.