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Is there a command that allows finding out whether or not a file contains something?

I tried with ls' size option (ls -lsh) but it does not show me the empty files because the files/folders have no size.

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Well, if the file size is zero, there's nothing inside the file. Isn't that right ? – Serg Mar 14 at 23:15
@Serg yeah man thats what i mean , can u help me with this? – Ziadd Hosary Mar 14 at 23:21
can you please accept kos's answer as the correct one ? I need to remove mine – Serg Mar 15 at 3:59
up vote 4 down vote accepted

We could analyse a file by the size using du command.

$> du Desktop/datasheet-3347.pdf                                
3564    Desktop/datasheet-3347.pdf

However, there's a small catch. What do we mean by the empty file ? Be aware that there are files with non-printable characters. Here's an example:

$> touch myFile.txt                                                            
$> echo '' > myFile.txt
$> du myFile.txt
4   myFile.txt

Look ! I've echoed empty space into the file, and yet it reports some size in bytes ? how can that be ?! Well, we've still written a single newline to the file.

As shown in this brilliant answer, files on disks are in chunks of 4096 bytes. When we write just a few bytes to the disk, the operating system still allocates a chunk of 4096 bytes. So technically file here is empty from human-readable point of view, and yet - it contains bytes.

We can create reference to a file , which will be 0 bytes, but once we try to fill it with any data, we'll give it 4096 bytes

$> touch myFile2.txt                                                           
$> du myFile2.txt
0   myFile2.txt

But why directory is 4096 bytes ? directories are sort of lists. Once you create a directory, even empty one, it holds information (for those interested in C programming language, that's dirent structure , which contains inode number, record length, type, and name; lookup dirent.h). So even though directory may not have files, it will contain information about itself.

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Thanks for the explanation ,your awesome – Ziadd Hosary Mar 15 at 0:12
Serg, thats not right..FS stores data as blocks on disk and minimum block size for ext is 4K, not 512B..512B could be the physical sector size IIRC.. – heemayl Mar 15 at 1:26
du always reporting in 4K chunks on my system..du -b shows the actual file size in bytes, not how much space it has taken on disk..try plain du.. – heemayl Mar 15 at 1:41
I have no complaint over your selection of du -b..i am saying the part you have written about block size on disk is wrong..../sys is provided by kernel and is a tmpfs (resides on memory), you should see the files as zero sized as sysfs should not show the size of any file on /sys as it depends on the time of read.. – heemayl Mar 15 at 2:02
I think that your example is confusing, especially the part I've echoed empty space into the file which is wrong: echo '' has written a new line because the -n option has not been used. It can be confusing for people who don't know how echo works. Can you please find an explicit example? – A.L Mar 15 at 12:41

You can use test with -f and ! -s, which will return 0 in case of an existing empty regular file or 1 otherwise:

    FILE exists and is a regular file
    FILE exists and has a size greater than zero
test -f file -a ! -s file && printf 'File exists and is empty.\n'

Or using a more common syntax:

[ -f file -a ! -s file ] && printf 'File exists and is empty.\n'
$ touch empty
$ printf '\n' >non_empty
$ test -f file -a ! -s empty && printf 'File exists and is empty.\n'
File exists and is empty.
$ test -f file -a ! -s non_empty && printf 'File exists and is empty.\n'

You could add a function to ~/.bashrc for convenience:

is_empty() { test -f file -a ! -s file && printf 'File exists and is empty.\n'; }

Or using a more common syntax:

is_empty() { [ -f file -a ! -s file ] && printf 'File exists and is empty.\n'; }
$ touch empty
$ printf '\n' >non_empty
$ is_empty empty 
File exists and is empty.
$ is_empty non_empty 
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Since -s is also false if the file doesn't exist, I'd suggest using -s on its own to test for a nonempty file, and [ -f "$1" -a ! -s "$1" ] to test specifically for an existing empty file, rather than ! -s on its own. – hobbs Mar 15 at 5:12
(perhaps -e instead of -f, but it's usually only meaningful to talk about the size of regular files.) – hobbs Mar 15 at 5:13
@hobbs Yeah, looks better that way. Thanks. – kos Mar 15 at 8:01

You can also use stat:

$ touch file
$ stat --format '%F' file
regular empty file
$ echo 'a' > file
$ stat --format '%F' file
regular file
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...or this:

find /dir/to/file -maxdepth 1 -name file_name -empty
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