Let's say the directory ~/this_dir doesn't exist.

I need to be able to run touch ~/this_dir/new.txt to create new.txt in ~/this_dir.

Is there a simple way to make touch also create the directory?

Or an alternative command which would achieve the same thing?


  • There's no single system call that can create directories up to a new file, so generally these are different tasks that you can't do with a single invocation of any "traditional" command like touch, and I don't think cp will do this either. The answer using install is neat, though, if you want efficiency in a script moreso than being obvious or clear to readers. – Peter Cordes Nov 27 '19 at 12:18

There is the command install which will accomplish what you are asking for.

install -Dv /dev/null this_dir/new.txt

(source: Bash command to create a new file and its parent directories if necessary)


  • install is used to copy files and set attributes (see man install)
  • -D tells the command to "create all leading components of DEST except the last, or all components of --target-directory, then copy SOURCE to DEST"
  • -v causes to show every creation step (can be omitted of course)
  • /dev/null is the source, from where to copy
  • this_dir/new.txt is the target of the copy operation.

@rchard2scout has thankfully pointed out that

The install command is part of GNU Coreutils, which has been marked as "Essential". That means it'll basically always be available.

  • very nice explanation.. do we need to install the package 0r it out of the box? considering 18.04 19.04 19.10 – UnKNOWn Nov 26 '19 at 2:29
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    Hey! After 30+ years working with UNIX and Linux, I still learn something new! Thanks. – j4nd3r53n Nov 26 '19 at 10:38
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    @PRATAP The install command is part of GNU Coreutils, which has been marked as "Essential". That means it'll basically always be available. – rchard2scout Nov 26 '19 at 11:40
  • @rchard2scout Hi, thanks.. after posting my comment, I have tried it and found it is out of the box in my 18.04 19.04 and 19.10. Thanks for your reply. – UnKNOWn Nov 26 '19 at 11:43
  • This command is very often used in, e.g., spectemplates & other packages scripts. – Giacomo Alzetta Nov 28 '19 at 14:02

I would recommend use the &&.


mkdir ~/this_dir && touch ~/this_dir/new.txt

The && deals accepts a new command. So mkdir this_dir, also do the rest.

This is very useful because can be used for everything, not only for new folders.

  • 20
    Also there's mkdir -p ~/this_dir/that_dir && touch ~/this_dir/that_dir/new.txt. – waltinator Nov 26 '19 at 3:24
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    I like this solution because it is the most easy solution to understand for someone with just basic nix knowledge. It is also very descriptive of what is happening. :-) – whirlwin Nov 26 '19 at 14:21
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    This fails if ~/this_dir does exist. Use mkdir -p to fix that. Or if that behaviour is on purpose, mention it in the answer. – Peter Cordes Nov 27 '19 at 12:15

Simple solution, given $file as a file, this should work:

mkdir -p $(dirname $file) && touch $file

or even

# create function
touchfile () {
    local file="$1"
    mkdir -p -- "$(dirname -- "$file")" &&
        touch -- "$file"

# then just
touchfile /path/to/file/to/touch/woah

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