I can create a new file and put the date in it.

touch example.txt
date >> example.txt

But I must create the file with the date in it the moment I created the new file. How do I do that with only one command?

  • 3
    touch updates the modification time of a file, or creates the file if it does not exist. Since the file would be created with the redirection >> or > anyway, this command is unnecessary here. – rexkogitans Dec 7 at 19:18

Simply use the date command to redirect into file and it will be created:

date > example.txt

A prefered way would using the >> append operator:

date >> example.txt

Both the redirection operator (>) and the append operator (>>) will create the target file if it doesn't exist. You never need to create it first and write to it later.

  • 7
    Note that > will clear the file if it does exist, whereas >> as in the OP's original sequence will add the date to the end of the file if it already exists. – Random832 Dec 7 at 17:42
  • I know that and the edit by terdon has clearly stated this! – George Udosen Dec 7 at 17:44
  • 5
    The edit does not seem clear in that aspect to me. I just thought it's worth mentioning because even though the OP asks about creating a new file, their existing sequence will not destroy the data in an existing file if something goes wrong. – Random832 Dec 7 at 17:45
  • 1
    Note that OP said "create file at the same time" so it's a new file that needs a date entry before use so > should be enough! – George Udosen Dec 7 at 17:53
  • @GeorgeUdosen I prefer >> when I know the file is not supposed to exist. It's easier to recover from a mistaken use of >> than to recover from a mistaken use of >. – kasperd Dec 8 at 0:10

It's worth noting that, if the problem with

I must create the file with the date in it the moment I created the new file

is due to race conditions (e.g. there's a process periodically scanning for a file with that name, and expects to find a date in there), even doing

date > example.txt

isn't correct, as there's still a very small window between when the shell opens the file and when date actually writes its stuff (which may also be written non-atomically as well).

In that case, the solution is to write to a separate file and then perform a mv to the correct file name:

date > example.txt.tmp
mv example.txt.tmp example.txt

A move on the same file system is guaranteed to be atomic, so when example.txt appears, it already contains the expected content.


If instead the question is just about typing a single command, the original solution is of course the correct and most straightforward one.

  • The date > ... still isn't atomic, so that additional mv step still doesn't help the race condition. Example: date +%Y-%m-%d\ %H:%M:%S.%N > foo && stat foo && cat foo. – ckujau Dec 11 at 0:13
  • @ckujau: I don't see what's your point... of course date > ... isn't atomic - I even said that ("which may also be written non-atomically as well"). The rename of course is effective only if the other program looks specifically for the final filename, not just any file in the directory. – Matteo Italia Dec 11 at 0:23

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