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HP-UX 11i Version 3: February 2007

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file — determine file type


file [-m mfile] [-c] [-f ffile] [-h] [-i] file ...

UNIX 2003 (onwards) Synopsis

file [-m mfile] [-M Mfile] [-c] [-d] [-f ffile] [-h] [-i] file ...


file performs a series of tests on each file in an attempt to classify it. If file appears to be an ASCII file, file examines the first 512 bytes and tries to guess its language. If file is an executable a.out file, file prints the version stamp, provided it is greater than 0 (see the description of the -V option in ld(1)).

file uses the file /etc/magic to identify files that have some sort of magic number, that is, any file containing a numeric or string constant that indicates its type. Commentary at the beginning of /etc/magic explains the format.


file recognizes the following command-line options:

-m mfile

Use alternate magic file mfile.

-M Mfile

(UNIX 2003 onwards Only) Use alternate magic file Mfile. Do not apply default context-sensitive tests.


Check the magic file for format errors. This validation is not normally carried out for reasons of efficiency. No file classification is done when this option is specified.


(UNIX 2003 onwards Only) Apply position-sensitive tests from the default magic file, /etc/magic, and default context-sensitive tests to the file.

-f ffile

Obtain the list of files to be examined from file ffile. file classifies each file whose name appears in ffile.


Do not follow symbolic links. From UNIX 2003 (onwards) environment, if -h is not specified and the file is a symbolic link referring to a non-existent file, it is identified as a symbolic link, as if -h has been specified.


Do not attempt to classify a regular file further.

If the -M option is specified with the -d option, -m option, or both, the concatenation of the position-sensitive tests specified by these options is applied in the order specified by the appearance of these options.


For information about the UNIX standard environment, see standards(5).

Environment Variables

LC_MESSAGES determines the language in which messages are displayed.

If LC_MESSAGES is not specified in the environment or is set to the empty string, the value of LANG is used as a default for each unspecified or empty variable. If LANG is not specified or is set to the empty string, a default of "C" (see lang(5)) is used instead of LANG.

If any internationalization variable contains an invalid setting, file behaves as if all internationalization variables are set to "C". See environ(5).

International Code Set Support

Single- and multi-byte character code sets are supported. However, all non-ASCII text files are identified as "data".


The file command for a release interprets the core files for that particular release correctly. Using the file command on a core file generated on a different release will report incorrect results.


file: SVID2, SVID3, XPG2, XPG4

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