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Short version: How can I make the less utility in Linux not wrap lines?

Long version: Often I need to view huge CSV files using less with hundreds of columns. I frequently only care about the first couple columns. However, word wrap causes one line to become several lines even on wide-screen monitors.

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up vote 308 down vote accepted

Note: For the key binding, see the second part.

In less, it's called line folding rather than line wrapping.  To set it not to fold, use the -S option:

-S, --chop-long-lines

Causes lines longer than the screen width to be chopped rather than folded. That is, the portion of a long line that does not fit in the screen width is not shown. The default is to fold long lines; that is, display the remainder on the next line.


Alternatively, as mentioned in the below comment, if you already opened the file, you can toggle the mode by typing -S (and then Enter for some implementations).

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... and toggle inside less with the same keys (-, then Shift-S). – peth Apr 19 '11 at 16:27
I knew it had to be something. The man page calls wrapping folding and non-wrapping chopping. – User1 Apr 19 '11 at 16:36
@user112553 Lol, "chopping" is a great example of old fashioned GNU computer terminology. – Ciro Santilli 巴拿馬文件 六四事件 法轮功 Jan 20 '14 at 11:56

If you want to stop wrapping permanently, cast these spells:

echo "#env" >> ~/.lesskey
echo "LESS = -S" >> ~/.lesskey
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+1 for beautiful spells. – timss Jul 3 '13 at 18:48
It's far more straightforward, IMO, to simply set the LESS variable in your shell RC. I'm not sure if the LESS variable is supported as widely as the very old lesskey mechanism, but if so, I'd recommend using it. – Ryan Long Jan 31 '14 at 22:39
Yes, using the env var LESS seems to be a bit more straight forward: LESS=-S less logfile.txt – Nick Aug 20 '15 at 19:00
Or even using an alias: alias less='less -S' – Nick Aug 20 '15 at 19:04
I'm missing instructions here for undoing these spells... – einpoklum Nov 1 '15 at 15:39

Don't know if less has a option for that, but I use the most command which does that by default (and allows scrolling left/right to view it)

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That sounds like a useful utility. Unfortunately most Linux distros don't have that tool by default. Sorry, I just couldn't help the pun. – User1 Apr 19 '11 at 16:52
most seems like a nice program, but I can't believe it doesn't have a shortcut to go to the end of the file. The convenient less command "G" asks for line number and doesn't recognize "$". While it seems like it mimics less in certain ways, I don't understand why the author didn't make it fully compatible. – haridsv Oct 31 '12 at 10:39
@haridsv Pretty sure the End key works in less, to go to the end of the buffer; At least in my gnome-terminal – ThorSummoner Jun 9 '14 at 16:43
thanks for the heads-up! – Felipe Almeida Aug 30 '15 at 23:38

To setup git so it always does not wrap:

git config --global core.pager 'less -S'

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