rev - Linux


The rev command in Linux is used to reverse the characters in each line of a given text. It reads the standard input if no file is specified, and when a file is provided, it processes the file line by line. This command is most effective in scripting and data manipulation tasks, such as creating palindromes or decoding certain types of data formats that require reversal of string patterns.


The basic syntax of the rev command is as follows:

rev [file...]
  • file: This is an optional argument. If one or more files are specified, rev will read from these files. If no file is specified, it reads from the standard input.


rev does not have many options or flags. It is primarily designed to be simple and perform a specific task. Here, the absence of options emphasizes the utility’s straightforward nature.


  1. Simple Usage:
    Reverse the contents of a single line.

    echo "hello" | rev


  2. Multiple Lines:
    Reverse multiple lines of text from a file.

    rev example.txt

    This will output the contents of example.txt with all characters in each line reversed.

  3. Pipelines:
    Combine with other commands for more complex operations.

    echo "123 456" | rev | cut -d ' ' -f1

    This reverses the string and then extracts the first field (based on spaces), effectively getting the reversed version of the last word from the original input.

Common Issues

  • Empty Output: If rev is run without input and no data is piped into it, it will simply wait for input or produce no output. Always ensure that there is input data either from a file or from standard input.

  • Non-visible Characters: Reversing strings with non-visible characters like newlines or tabs might produce confusing output. Use tools like cat -A to check the actual characters in the input or output.

  • UTF-8 Characters: rev handles UTF-8 characters differently depending on the implementation. Some characters might not be reversed as expected if they are multi-byte characters.


rev can be integrated with various text-processing tools to build more complex scripts. For example:

# To check if a word is a palindrome
echo "level" | rev | grep -Fxq "$(echo "level")" && echo "Palindrome" || echo "Not a Palindrome"

This script reverses the word and checks if it matches the original, informing us if it’s a palindrome.

  • tac: Reverse the order of lines in a file (as opposed to characters in a line).
  • sed, awk: These tools can be used for more complex text manipulations and can include reversing strings as part of a larger command set.

For more details, you can refer to the man pages by typing man rev in the terminal or visiting online resources for POSIX or GNU manuals.