linux – How does cat << EOF work in bash?

linux – How does cat << EOF work in bash?

The cat <<EOF syntax is very useful when working with multi-line text in Bash, eg. when assigning multi-line string to a shell variable, file or a pipe.

Examples of cat <<EOF syntax usage in Bash:

1. Assign multi-line string to a shell variable

$ sql=$(cat <<EOF
SELECT foo, bar FROM db
WHERE foo=baz

The $sql variable now holds the new-line characters too. You can verify with echo -e $sql.

2. Pass multi-line string to a file in Bash

$ cat <<EOF >
echo $PWD
echo $PWD

The file now contains:

echo $PWD
echo /home/user

3. Pass multi-line string to a pipe in Bash

$ cat <<EOF | grep b | tee b.txt

The b.txt file contains bar and baz lines. The same output is printed to stdout.

This is called heredoc format to provide a string into stdin. See for more details.

From man bash:

Here Documents

This type of redirection instructs the shell to read input from
the current source until a line
containing only word (with no trailing
blanks) is seen.

All of the lines read up to that point are then used as the
standard input for a command.

The format of here-documents is:


No parameter expansion, command substitution, arithmetic expansion, or
pathname expansion is performed on
word. If any characters in word are
quoted, the
delimiter is the result of quote removal on word, and the lines
in the here-document are not expanded.
If word is unquoted, all lines of the
here-document are subjected to parameter expansion, command
substitution, and arithmetic
expansion. In the latter case, the
character sequence <newline> is
ignored, and must be used to quote the characters , $, and `.

If the redirection operator is <<-, then all leading tab characters
are stripped from input lines and the
line containing delimiter. This
allows here-documents within shell scripts to be indented in a natural fashion.

linux – How does cat << EOF work in bash?

In your case, EOF is known as a Here Tag. Basically <<Here tells the shell that you are going to enter a multiline string until the tag Here. You can name this tag as you want, its often EOF or STOP.

Some rules about the Here tags:

  1. The tag can be any string, uppercase or lowercase, though most people use uppercase by convention.
  2. The tag will not be considered as a Here tag if there are other words in that line. In this case, it will merely be considered part of the string. The tag should be by itself on a separate line, to be considered a tag.
  3. The tag should have no leading or trailing spaces in that line to be considered a tag. Otherwise it will be considered as part of the string.


$ cat >> test <<HERE
> Hello world HERE <-- Not by itself on a separate line -> not considered end of string
> This is a test
>  HERE <-- Leading space, so not considered end of string
> and a new line
> HERE <-- Now we have the end of the string

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