How to understand Pipes.

Pipes in Linux are a powerful feature that facilitates communication between commands by allowing the output of one command to be used as the input for another. This seamless connection between processes enhances the flexibility and efficiency of command-line operations. In this article, we will delve into the details of pipes in Linux, exploring their syntax, functionality, and providing practical examples.

Basic Syntax:

The pipe symbol (|) is used to connect commands in a pipeline. The syntax is as follows:

command1 | command2

Here, the output of command1 is directed as the input to command2. Let’s explore this concept further with examples.

Example 1: Listing and Sorting Files

A common use case for pipes is combining the ls (list) command with sort to display files in alphabetical order:

ls | sort

This command lists the contents of the current directory (ls) and then sorts the output alphabetically (sort).

Example 2: Filtering Output with grep

Pipes are often used in combination with grep to filter specific information. Consider searching for files containing the word "example":

ls | grep example

This command lists files in the current directory and filters the output to display only those containing the word "example."

Example 3: Counting Lines with wc

You can use pipes to count the number of lines in the output. For instance, counting the number of lines in a file:

cat filename.txt | wc -l

Here, the cat command outputs the content of the file, and wc -l counts the number of lines.

Chaining Multiple Commands:

Pipes allow you to chain multiple commands together for more complex operations. Let’s combine ps (process status) with grep to find a specific process:

ps aux | grep firefox

This command lists all processes (ps aux) and then filters the output to display only those related to Firefox.

Redirection with Pipes:

You can also redirect the output of a pipeline to a file. For instance, saving the sorted list of files to a text file:

ls | sort > sorted_files.txt

Here, the > symbol is used for output redirection.


Pipes in Linux provide a versatile mechanism for connecting and enhancing command-line operations. Understanding how to use pipes allows you to create powerful command sequences by combining and manipulating the output of various commands. Experimenting with pipes will deepen your command-line proficiency and streamline your interactions with the Linux system.

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