‘cat’ Command: A Visual for the Curious Beginner

Janice Sanders
2 min readNov 4, 2023


‘cat’ Command Flow Chart: Basic file & Standard Input

If you’re learning Linux commands and find yourself struggling with the distinction between using the cat command with filenames as arguments AND using it to read from standard input, this visual is for you.

This flowchart visually delineates these two operations (basic file vs. standard input) with the use of the ‘cat’ command and provides a clear reference that is beneficial for beginners.

When you provide filenames as arguments:
cat acts as a reader, displaying file contents directly in your terminal

Without filenames as arguments:
cat becomes a receiver and ‘listens’, taking in what you type or what is piped from other sources and then outputting it accordingly

Use Cases:

Even the ‘cat’ command has use cases. Here are a few:

*️⃣Viewing contents of files
*️⃣Combining files
*️⃣Appending files
*️⃣Creating a new file
*️⃣Copying a file
*️⃣Scripting and piping
*️⃣Standard input redirection

If you’d like the pdf version of this flowchart, you can get it here.

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Janice Sanders

Cloud Engineer | Cloud Security Engineer | DevOps | Multi-Cloud | Coursera Course Developer | Former Writing Teacher