zcat Command in Linux with Examples

This tutorial explains Linux “zcat” command, options and its usage with examples.

zcat – Expands a compressed file to standard output.


zcat uncompresses either a list of files on the command line or its standard input and writes the uncompressed data on standard output. zcat will uncompress files whether they have a .gz suffix or not.


zcat [ -f ] [ File … ]


zcat behaves as cat



1. To view the contents of zipped file

$ cat file1.txt
$ gzip file1.txt
$ zcat file1.txt.gz 

2. View a gzipped file which don’t have the gz suffix

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$ cat > test-file.txt
This is a test file used for gunzip and zcat testing
zcat is awesome command.  
$ gzip test-file.txt
$ mv test-file.txt.gz test-file-no-ext
$ gzip -d test-file-no-ext
gzip: test-file-no-ext: unknown suffix -- ignored
$ zcat test-file-no-ext
This is a test file used for gunzip and zcat testing
zcat is awesome command.

If you try to uncompress a gzipped file which don’t have the gz suffix with “gunzip” or “gzip -d” command you will face error like in the example test-file-no-ext. Hence using zcat on it works just as with any other .gz file.

3. Display the file content without worrying about whether it is compressed or not

When you are not sure whether a file is compressed or not, you can still view the file without worrying about it’s compression status as shown below.

$ zcat -f input-file

4. Paging the compressed file with zless / zmore.

$ zcat filename.gz | more
$ zcat filename.gz | less


$ zless filename.gz
$ zmore filename.gz

With paging, if the content of the file goes beyond the screen size, then the content can be displayed line by line using the more and less commands.

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If you wish to look at all Linux commands and their usage examples, go to Linux Commands Tutorial.

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Manish Bhojasia - Founder & CTO at Sanfoundry
Manish Bhojasia, a technology veteran with 20+ years @ Cisco & Wipro, is Founder and CTO at Sanfoundry. He lives in Bangalore, and focuses on development of Linux Kernel, SAN Technologies, Advanced C, Data Structures & Alogrithms. Stay connected with him at LinkedIn.

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