Bat – A Cat Clone With Syntax Highlighting And Git Integration
In Unix-like systems, the ‘cat’ command is used to print and concatenate files. Using cat command, we can print the contents of a file to the standard output, concatenate several files into the target file, and append several files into the target file. Today, I stumbled upon a similar utility named “Bat”, a clone to the cat command, with some additional cool features such as syntax highlighting, git integration and automatic paging etc. In this brief guide, we will how to install and use Bat command in Linux.
Bat is available in the default repositories of Arch Linux. So, you can install it using pacman on any arch-based systems.
$ sudo pacman -S bat
On Debian, Ubuntu, Linux Mint systems, download the .deb file from the Releases page and install it as shown below.
$ wget https://github.com/sharkdp/bat/releases/download/v0.11.0/bat_0.11.0_amd64.deb
$ sudo apt install gdebi
$ sudo gdebi bat_0.11.0_amd64.deb
$ sudo zypper install bat
Using Nix package manager:
$ nix-env -i bat
On Fedora, bat can be installed from the official Fedora Modular repository.
$ sudo dnf install bat
For other systems, you may need to compile and install from source. Make sure you have installed Rust 1.26 or higher.
Then, run the following command to install Bat:
$ cargo install bat
Alternatively, you can install it using Linuxbrew package manager.
$ brew install bat
Bat command Usage
The Bat’s usage is very similar to cat command.
To create a new file using bat, do:
$ bat > file.txt
To view the contents of a file using bat, run:
$ bat file.txt
You can also view multiple files at once:
$ bat file1.txt file2.txt
To append the contents of the multiple files in a single file:
$ bat file1.txt file2.txt file3.txt > document.txt
Like I already mentioned, apart from viewing and editing files, the Bat utility has some additional cool features though.
Bat supports syntax highlighting for large number of programming and markup languages. For instance, look at the following example. I am going to display the contents of the reverse.py file using both cat and bat commands.
Did you notice the difference? Cat command shows the contents of the file in plain text format, whereas Bat shows output with syntax highlighting, order number in a neat tabular column format. Much better, isn’t it?
If you want to display only the line numbers (not the tabular column), use -n flag.
$ bat -n reverse.py
Another notable feature of Bat command is it supports automatic paging. That means if output of a file is too large for one screen, the bat command automatically pipes its own output to less command, so you can view the output page by page.
Let me show you an example. When you view the contents of a file which spans multiple pages using cat command, the prompt quickly jumps to the last page of the file, and you do not see the content in the beginning or in the middle.
Have a look at the following output:
As you can see, the cat command displays last page of the file.
So, you may need to pipe the output of the cat command to less command to view it’s contents page by page from the beginning.
$ cat reverse.py | less
Now, you can view output page by page by hitting the ENTER key. However, it is not necessary if you use bat command. The bat command will automatically pipe the output of a file which spans multiple pages.
$ bat reverse.py
Now hit the ENTER key to go to the next page.
The bat command also supports GIT integration, so you can view/edit the files in your Git repository without much hassle. It communicates with git to show modifications with respect to the index (see left side bar).
If you don’t like the default themes, you can change it too. Bat has option for that too.
To list the available themes, just run:
$ bat --list-themes 1337 DarkNeon Default GitHub Monokai Extended Monokai Extended Bright Monokai Extended Light Monokai Extended Origin TwoDark
To use a different theme, for example TwoDark, run:
$ bat --theme=TwoDark file.txt
If you want to make the theme permanent, use export BAT_THEME=”TwoDark” in your shells startup file.
Bat also have the option to control the appearance of the output. To do so, use the –style option. To show only Git changes and line numbers but no grid and no file header, use –style=numbers,changes.
You can read the comparison of similar tools from this table. Please note that comparison is made from Bat’s perspective.
For more details, refer the Bat project GitHub page given below.