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$ ls -l /usr/bin
total 200732

-rwxr-xr-x 1 root   root     156344 Oct  4  2013 adb
-rwxr-xr-x 1 root   root       6123 Oct  8  2013 add-apt-repository
 list goes long ---------

In the above adb is a binary file and add-apt-repository is a script file.I get this information by viewing the files through nautilus.But through command line, i didn't find any differences.I am not able to predict whether a file is binary file or a script file.

So how do I differentiate between script and binary files through the command-line?

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3 Answers 3

up vote 16 down vote accepted

Just use file:

$ file /usr/bin/add-apt-repository
/usr/bin/add-apt-repository: Python script, ASCII text executable
$ file /usr/bin/ab
/usr/bin/ab: ELF 64-bit LSB  shared object, x86-64, version 1 (SYSV), dynamically linked (uses shared libs), for GNU/Linux 2.6.32, BuildID[sha1]=569314a9c4458e72e4ac66cb043e9a1fdf0b55b7, stripped

As explained in man file:

   file — determine file type

 This manual page documents version 5.14 of the file command.

 file tests each argument in an attempt to classify it.  There are three
 sets of tests, performed in this order: filesystem tests, magic tests,
 and language tests.  The first test that succeeds causes the file type to
 be printed.

 The type printed will usually contain one of the words text (the file
 contains only printing characters and a few common control characters and
 is probably safe to read on an ASCII terminal), executable (the file con‐
 tains the result of compiling a program in a form understandable to some
 UNIX kernel or another), or data meaning anything else (data is usually
 “binary” or non-printable).  Exceptions are well-known file formats (core
 files, tar archives) that are known to contain binary data.  When adding
 local definitions to /etc/magic, make sure to preserve these keywords.
 Users depend on knowing that all the readable files in a directory have
 the word “text” printed.  Don't do as Berkeley did and change “shell
 commands text” to “shell script”.

You can also use a trick to run this directly on the name of the executable in your $PATH:

$ file $(type -p add-apt-repository | awk '{print $NF}')
/usr/local/bin/add-apt-repository: Python script, ASCII text executable
$ file $(type -p ab | awk '{print $NF}')
/usr/bin/ab: ELF 64-bit LSB  shared object, x86-64, version 1 (SYSV), dynamically linked (uses shared libs), for GNU/Linux 2.6.32, BuildID[sha1]=569314a9c4458e72e4ac66cb043e9a1fdf0b55b7, stripped

To find the file type of all executables that can be found in the directories of your $PATH, you can do this:

find $(printf "$PATH" | sed 's/:/ /g') -type f | xargs file

And to run file on all files in a particular directory (/usr/bin, for example), just do

file /usr/bin/*
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But we have to run file for each file to see which type of file is this.Is there any simple method for all the files? –  Avinash Raj Apr 13 '14 at 18:17
@AvinashRaj for all files in a given directory? Just do file /usr/bin/*. Just like any other command. –  terdon Apr 13 '14 at 18:20

Actually, the differences between those are not that great.

On a typical Unix or Linux system, there are fewer than five real executables. On Ubuntu, these are /lib/ld-linux.so.2 and /sbin/ldconfig.

Everything else that is marked executable is run through an interpreter, for which two formats are supported:

  1. Files starting with #! will have the interpreter name between this and the first newline character (that's right, there is no requirement that "scripts" be text files).
  2. ELF files have a PT_INTERP segment that gives the path to the interpreter (usually /lib/ld-linux.so.2).

When such a file is executed, the kernel finds the name of the interpreter, and calls it instead. This can happen recursively, for example when you run a shell script:

  1. The kernel opens the script, finds the #! /bin/sh at the beginning.
  2. The kernel opens /bin/sh, finds the PT_INTERP segment pointing to /lib/ld-linux.so.2.
  3. The kernel opens /lib/ld-linux.so.2, finds that it doesn't have a PT_INTERP segment, loads its text segment and starts it, passing the open handle to /bin/sh and the command line for your script invocation.
  4. ld-linux.so.2 loads the code segments from /bin/sh, resolves shared library references and starts its main function
  5. /bin/sh then reopens the script file, and starts interpreting it line by line.

From the point of view of the kernel, the only difference is that for the ELF file, the open file descriptor is passed rather than the name of the file; this is mostly an optimization. Whether the interpreter then decides to jump to a code segment loaded from the file, or interpret it line by line is only decided by the interpreter, and mostly based on convention.

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Good information, but not really an answer to this question. –  OrangeDog Apr 14 '14 at 8:37
The answer is Mu. –  Simon Richter Apr 14 '14 at 8:39

File command is great , but for more professional analyzing tool , i would like you to try TrID package which is a File Identifier tool.

TrID is an utility designed to identify file types from their binary signatures , and its easy to use .

For more information and the package just visit : Site

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