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Linux essentials: How to create and delete files and directories

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source link: https://www.redhat.com/sysadmin/create-delete-files-directories-linux
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Linux essentials: How to create and delete files and directories

Learn how to use the mkdir, touch, and rm commands to create files and directories, then clean them up when you're ready.

Posted: July 19, 2022 | %t min read | by Alexon Oliveira (Red Hat, Sudoer)

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File system

Creating and deleting files and directories are standard operations for a sysadmin. Depending on your operating system and filesystem, there may be different ways to perform these tasks. The most efficient way is to use the shell (for instance, Bash). This article assumes you already understand how to enter commands into a Linux terminal. (Read Nathan Lager's What sysadmins need to know about using Bash if you want a refresher.)

Connect to your Linux terminal and get ready to sling some files.

[ Boost your Bash skills. Download the Bash shell scripting cheat sheet. ]

Create a directory

Before creating a new directory, use the pwd command to understand where you are in the filesystem:

$ pwd
/home/localuser

I'm in the localuser's home folder (and you're probably in whatever user's home directory you've logged in as). Checking for files with the ls command, I see that I have none:

$ ls
$

Create a new directory as the starting point for this article's exercises. The command to create a new directory is mkdir. Check its options and available parameters:

$ mkdir --help
Usage: mkdir [OPTION]... DIRECTORY...
Create the DIRECTORY(ies), if they do not already exist.

Mandatory arguments to long options are mandatory for short options too.
  -m, --mode=MODE   set file mode (as in chmod), not a=rwx - umask
  -p, --parents     no error if existing, make parent directories as needed
  -v, --verbose     print a message for each created directory
  -Z                   set SELinux security context of each created directory
                         to the default type
      --context[=CTX]  like -Z, or if CTX is specified then set the SELinux
                         or SMACK security context to CTX
      --help     display this help and exit
      --version  output version information and exit

The basic syntax for using this command is mkdir {dir} (replace {dir} with the desired name of your directory). Before creating any directory or file, remember that most Linux filesystems are case-sensitive. That means a resource named Dir or File is different from dir or file, which is also different from DIR or FILE. Bash interprets the name exactly as you spell it.

Create a new directory called mydir, change to it with the cd command, and list its contents:

$ mkdir mydir

$ file mydir
mydir: directory

$ ls -l
drwxrwxr-x. 2 localuser localuser  6 Jun  9 14:47 mydir

$ cd mydir/

$ pwd
/home/localuser/mydir

$ ls -l
total 0

You've just created a new directory, confirmed that it is indeed a directory-type object with the file command, entered the directory, and verified that it is empty. To create more than one directory simultaneously, specify the names of the new directories after mkdir with a blank space between them:

$ mkdir dir1 dir2 dir3

$ ls -l
total 0
drwxrwxr-x. 2 localuser localuser 6 Jun  9 14:57 dir1
drwxrwxr-x. 2 localuser localuser 6 Jun  9 14:57 dir2
drwxrwxr-x. 2 localuser localuser 6 Jun  9 14:57 dir3
[mydir]$ ls -R
.:
dir1  dir2  dir3

./dir1:

./dir2:

./dir3:

You created three new empty directories.

[ Get insight into managing your Linux environment for success. ]

To create a directory with a directory inside of it, use the -p option:

$ mkdir -p dir4/subdir1

$ ls -l
total 0
drwxrwxr-x. 2 localuser localuser  6 Jun  9 14:57 dir1
drwxrwxr-x. 2 localuser localuser  6 Jun  9 14:57 dir2
drwxrwxr-x. 2 localuser localuser  6 Jun  9 14:57 dir3
drwxrwxr-x. 3 localuser localuser 21 Jun  9 16:57 dir4

$ ls -lR
.:
total 0
drwxrwxr-x. 2 localuser localuser  6 Jun  9 14:57 dir1
drwxrwxr-x. 2 localuser localuser  6 Jun  9 14:57 dir2
drwxrwxr-x. 2 localuser localuser  6 Jun  9 14:57 dir3
drwxrwxr-x. 3 localuser localuser 21 Jun  9 16:57 dir4

./dir1:
total 0

./dir2:
total 0

./dir3:
total 0

./dir4:
total 0
drwxrwxr-x. 2 localuser localuser 6 Jun  9 16:57 subdir1

./dir4/subdir1:
total 0
[mydir]$ ls -l dir4/
total 0
drwxrwxr-x. 2 localuser localuser 6 Jun  9 16:57 subdir1

Create files

Now that you have some directories, create some files. There are multiple ways to create files. To create files using shell redirection, refer to How to manipulate files with shell redirection and pipelines in Linux. You can also create empty files with the touch command. Here are its options and parameters:

$ touch --help
Usage: touch [OPTION]... FILE...
Update the access and modification times of each FILE to the current time.

A FILE argument that does not exist is created empty, unless -c or -h
is supplied.

A FILE argument string of - is handled specially and causes touch to
change the times of the file associated with standard output.

Mandatory arguments to long options are mandatory for short options too.
  -a                     change only the access time
  -c, --no-create        do not create any files
  -d, --date=STRING      parse STRING and use it instead of current time
  -f                     (ignored)
  -h, --no-dereference   affect each symbolic link instead of any referenced
                         file (useful only on systems that can change the
                         timestamps of a symlink)
  -m                     change only the modification time
  -r, --reference=FILE   use this file's times instead of current time
  -t STAMP               use [[CC]YY]MMDDhhmm[.ss] instead of current time
      --time=WORD        change the specified time:
                           WORD is access, atime, or use: equivalent to -a
                           WORD is modify or mtime: equivalent to -m
      --help     display this help and exit
      --version  output version information and exit

The basic syntax to create an empty file is touch {file}:

$ ls
dir1  dir2  dir3  dir4

$ touch file1

$ ls -l
total 0
drwxrwxr-x. 2 localuser localuser  6 Jun  9 14:57 dir1
drwxrwxr-x. 2 localuser localuser  6 Jun  9 14:57 dir2
drwxrwxr-x. 2 localuser localuser  6 Jun  9 14:57 dir3
drwxrwxr-x. 3 localuser localuser 21 Jun  9 16:57 dir4
-rw-rw-r--. 1 localuser localuser  0 Jun  9 17:31 file1

To create multiple files, type each file's name in front of another with blank spaces separating them:

$ touch file2 file3

$ ls -l
total 0
drwxrwxr-x. 2 localuser localuser  6 Jun  9 14:57 dir1
drwxrwxr-x. 2 localuser localuser  6 Jun  9 14:57 dir2
drwxrwxr-x. 2 localuser localuser  6 Jun  9 14:57 dir3
drwxrwxr-x. 3 localuser localuser 21 Jun  9 16:57 dir4
-rw-rw-r--. 1 localuser localuser  0 Jun  9 17:31 file1
-rw-rw-r--. 1 localuser localuser  0 Jun  9 17:33 file2
-rw-rw-r--. 1 localuser localuser  0 Jun  9 17:33 file3

To create an empty file inside a subdirectory, specify the full path of the desired directory before the name of the new file:

$ touch dir4/subdir1/file4

$ ls -lR
.:
total 0
drwxrwxr-x. 2 localuser localuser  6 Jun  9 14:57 dir1
drwxrwxr-x. 2 localuser localuser  6 Jun  9 14:57 dir2
drwxrwxr-x. 2 localuser localuser  6 Jun  9 14:57 dir3
drwxrwxr-x. 3 localuser localuser 21 Jun  9 16:57 dir4
-rw-rw-r--. 1 localuser localuser  0 Jun  9 17:31 file1
-rw-rw-r--. 1 localuser localuser  0 Jun  9 17:33 file2
-rw-rw-r--. 1 localuser localuser  0 Jun  9 17:33 file3

./dir1:
total 0

./dir2:
total 0

./dir3:
total 0

./dir4:
total 0
drwxrwxr-x. 2 localuser localuser 19 Jun  9 17:35 subdir1

./dir4/subdir1:
total 0
-rw-rw-r--. 1 localuser localuser 0 Jun  9 17:35 file4
[mydir]$ ls dir4/subdir1/
file4

Delete files and directories

Now that you have created some files and directories, you can delete everything you've created so far.

It can be easy to get disoriented in the terminal, which can have disastrous consequences. Use the pwd command to display exactly which part of the filesystem you're in.

The safest way to remove files and directories is to send them to a trash bin, just as you do on your desktop. Projects such as trashy and trash-cli help you remove files from a directory without actually deleting anything until you're ready for the data to be erased. However, these tools are not often installed by default. The standard tool to remove resources is rm.

Use the rm command when you're sure you're ready to erase data permanently. Unlike trash commands, there is no unremove command, so use rm judiciously.

To delete a file, use rm {file}:

$ ls dir3/
dir2  file3

$ rm dir3/file3

$ ls dir3/
dir2

To delete a directory and its contents, use the -r or -R option with rm:

$ rm -r dir3/dir2/

$ ls dir3

$

If you're dealing with an empty directory (such as my example dir3, which had its contents removed), use the -d parameter to delete it:

$ ls dir3/

$ rm -d dir3/

Advanced operations

The shell makes creating files and directories easy, scriptable, and efficient. You can use special shell operations to create multiple directories at a time. Try mkdir along with seq:

$ mkdir dir{1..9}

[ Download the free Linux commands cheat sheet. ]

Wrap up

The Linux terminal is a powerful tool. Now you know how to use it for a few basic file-management tasks. Creating and deleting files and directories are essential tasks. Tasks such as copy and move are equally important, and I'll write about them in my next article.


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