Determine file type.

      file  [-bcdhikLnNprsvz] [-f namefile] [-F separator] [-M magic-files] [-m magicfiles] file ...

file -C [-m magicfile ] Key -b, --brief Do not prepend filenames to output lines (brief mode). -c, --checking-printout Cause a checking printout of the parsed form of the magic file. This is usually used in conjunction with -m to debug a new magic file before installing it. -C, --compile Write a magic.mgc output file that contains a pre-parsed version of file. -f, --files-from namefile Read the names of the files to be examined from namefile (one per line) before the argument list. Either namefile or at least one filename argument must be present; to test the standard input, use `-' as a filename argument. -F, --separator separator Use the specified string as the separator between the filename and the file result returned. Defaults to `:'. -h, --no-dereference option causes symlinks not to be followed (on systems that support symbolic links). This is the default if the environment variable POSIXLY_CORRECT is not defined. -I, --mime Causes the file command to output mime type strings rather than the more traditional human readable ones. For example: `text/plain; charset=us-ascii' rather than `ASCII text'. In order for this option to work, file changes the way it han- dles files recognised by the command itself (such as many of the text file types, directories etc), and makes use of an alternative ``magic'' file. (See ``FILES'' section, below). -i If the file is a regular file do not classify its contents. -k, --keep-going Don't stop at the first match, keep going. -L, --dereference option causes symlinks to be followed, as the like-named option in ls(1) (on systems that support symbolic links). This is the default if the environment variable POSIXLY_CORRECT is defined. -m, --magic-file list Specify an alternate list of files containing magic numbers. This can be a single file, or a colon-separated list of files. If a compiled magic file is found alongside, it will be used instead. With the -I or --mime option, the program adds ".mime" to each file name. -m list Like -m, except the default rules are not applied. -n, --no-buffer Force stdout to be flushed after checking each file. This is only useful if checking a list of files. It is intended to be used by programs that want filetype output from a pipe. -d Apply default system tests, this is the default if neither -m nor -M are supplied. -N, --no-pad Don't pad filenames so that they align in the output. -p, --preserve-date On systems that support utime(2) or utimes(2), attempt to pre- serve the access time of files analyzed, to pretend that file(2) never read them. -r, --raw No operation, included for historical compatability. -s, --special-files Normally, file only attempts to read and deter- mine the type of argument files which stat(2) reports are ordinary files. This prevents problems, because reading special files can have peculiar consequences. Specifying the -s option causes file to also read argument files which are block or character special files. This is useful for determining the filesystem types of the data in raw disk partitions, which are block special files. This option also causes file to disregard the file size as reported by stat(2) since on some systems it reports a zero size for raw disk partitions. -v, --version Print the version of the program and exit. -z, --uncompress Try to look inside compressed files. --help Print a help message and exit.

File tests each argument in an attempt to classify it. There are threesets of tests, performed in this order:filesystem tests, magic numbertests, and language tests. The first test that succeeds causes the file type to be printed.The type printed will usually contain one of the words text (the filecontains only printing characters and a few common control characters and is probably safe to read on an ASCII terminal), executable (the file contains the result of compiling a program in a form understandable to some UNIX kernel or another), or data meaning anything else(data is usually `binary' or non-printable).

Exceptions are well-known file formats (core files, tar archives) that are known to contain binary data. When modifying the file /usr/share/file/magic or the program itself, preserve these keywords . People depend on knowing that all the readable files in a directory have the word `text' printed. Don't do as Berkeley did and change `shell commands text' to `shellscript'. Note that the file /usr/share/file/magic is built mechanically from a large number of small files in the subdirectory Magdir inthe source distribution of this program.

The filesystem tests are based on examining the return from a stat(2)system call. The program checks to see if the file is empty, or if it's some sort of special file. Any known file types appropriate to the system you are running on (sockets, symbolic links, or named pipes(FIFOs) on those systems that implement them) are intuited if they are defined in the system header file <sys/stat.h>.The magic number tests are used to check for files with data in particular fixed formats. The canonical example of this is a binary executable (compiled program) a.out file, whose format is defined in a.out.h and possibly exec.h in the standard include directory. These files have a `magic number' stored in a particular place near the beginning of the file that tells the UNIX operating system that the file is a binary executable, and which of several types thereof.

The concept of `magic number' has been applied by extension to data files. Any file with some invariant identifier at a small fixed offset into the file can usually be described in this way. The information identifying these files is read from the compiled magic file /usr/share/file/magic.mgc , or /usr/share/file/magic if the compile file does not exist.

In addition file will look in $HOME/.magic.mgc ,or $HOME/.magic for magic entries. If a file does not match any of the entries in the magic file, it is examined to see if it seems to be a text file. ASCII, ISO-8859-x, non-ISO 8-bit extended-ASCII character sets (such as those used on Macintosh and IBM PC systems), UTF-8-encoded Unicode, UTF-16-encoded Unicode, and EBCDIC character sets can be distinguished by the different ranges and sequences of bytes that constitute printable text in eachset.

If a file passes any of these tests, its character set is reported. ASCII, ISO-8859-x, UTF-8, and extended-ASCII files are identified as `text' because they will be mostly readable on nearly any terminal; UTF-16 and EBCDIC are only `character data' because, whilethey contain text, it is text that will require translation before it can be read. In addition, file will attempt to determine other characteristics of text-type files.

If the lines of a file are terminated by CR, CRLF, or NEL, instead of the Unix-standard LF, this will be reported.

Files that contain embedded escape sequences or overstriking will also be identified.

Once file has determined the character set used in a text-type file, it will attempt to determine in what language the file is written. Thelanguage tests look for particular strings (cf names.h) that can appear anywhere in the first few blocks of a file. For example, the indicates that the file is most likely a troff(1) input file, justas the keyword struct indicates a C program. These tests are less reliable than the previous two groups, so they are performed last. The language test routines also test for some miscellany (such as tar(1)archives).

You can drag and drop a file from the macOS Finder into the terminal window rather than typing out the filename.

Any file that cannot be identified as having been written in any of the character sets listed above is said to be 'data'.


Default compiled list of magic numbers

Default list of magic numbers

Default compiled list of magic numbers, used to output mime types when the -i option is specified.

Default list of magic numbers, used to output mime types when the -i option is specified.


The environment variable MAGIC can be used to set the default magic number file name. If that variable is set, then file will not attempt to open $HOME/.magic . file adds ".mime" and/or ".mgc" to the value of this variable as appropriate.

The environment variable POSIXLY_CORRECT controls (on systems that support symbolic links), if file will attempt to follow symlinks or not. If set, then file follows symlink, otherwise it does not. This is also controlled by the L and h options.

This manual page documents version 4.17 of the file command, this version treats any white space as a delimiter, so that spaces in pattern strings must be escaped.


Find the size of an image file:
$ file questlove.png
questlove.png: PNG image data, 500 x 375, 8-bit/color RGB, non-interlaced

Use wildcards to retrieve properties for a list of files:
$ file *.gif

Is a script file executable?
$ file myscript
myscript: Bourne-Again shell script text executable

Find the properties of an audio file:
$ file track01.flac
track01.flac: FLAC audio bitstream data, 16 bit, stereo, 44.1 kHz, 6516216 samples

Find the properties of a disk:
$ file /dev/disk0

/dev/disk0: block special (14/0)

$ file -s /dev/disk{0,1}

/dev/disk0: block special (14/0)
/dev/disk1: x86 boot sector

$ file -s /dev/hda{,1,2,3,4,5}
/dev/hda: x86 boot sector
/dev/hda1: Linux/i386 ext2 filesystem
/dev/hda2: x86 boot sector
/dev/hda3: x86 boot sector, extended partition table
/dev/hda4: Linux/i386 ext2 filesystem
/dev/hda5: Linux/i386 swap file

$ file -i file.c file /dev/{wd0a,hda}
file.c: text/x-c
file: application/x-executable, dynamically linked (uses shared libs), not stripped
/dev/hda: application/x-not-regular-file
/dev/wd0a: application/x-not-regular-file

#Dance to this fix and flex every muscle
Space can be filled if you rise like my lumber
Advance to the tune but don't do the hustle
Shake, rattle, roll to my magic number# ~ De La Soul (The Magic Number)

Related macOS commands

magic(5) - description of magic file format.
qlmanage - Quick Look Server debug and management tool.
strings(1), od(1), hexdump(1), compat(5) - tools for examining non-textfiles.
otool(1), otool64(1) - Mach-O object display tools.

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