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When I first heard their names, I got really confused when I tried to guess what these tools might do, I thought I'd misheard something.

What's the difference between more and less, i.e. why should I choose one over the other?
They both seem to do the same thing...

Also, why are they named like that in the first place?

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Wait until you find out about most! It's just like more and less but it supports colors too! – Kevin Panko Jul 13 '11 at 19:03
o_O you're joking right? – Mehrdad Jul 13 '11 at 19:30
@Mehrdad No. – new123456 Jul 13 '11 at 20:12
@new123456: lol Why settle for less?... – Mehrdad Jul 13 '11 at 20:13
less is more than more! – ctype.h Jan 17 '12 at 0:17
up vote 70 down vote accepted

more is a basic pager, which allows you to scroll downwards, one page at a time. Only downwards.

less is also a pager, but has addition functionality to scroll upwards and downwards through the input, in addition to several other extensions.

So, yes. less is more, and more is less. Another common idiom (according to the wiki entry) is "less is more, more or less." The name comes from the fact that the author (Mark Nudelman) essentially wanted a program that was "backwards more" -- The opposite of more, is less.

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+1 cool, thanks. Any idea why more was named more, btw? – Mehrdad Jul 13 '11 at 16:17
@Mehrdad All I have to go on is the wiki entry, which states "The name came from the joke of doing 'backwards more.'" – Darth Android Jul 13 '11 at 16:20
@Mehrdad I just realized I misread your comment-- I have no clue why more is called "more", but I would suspect that it's because all the program originally did was accept input and display -- More -- at the bottom of the screen if there was more. – Darth Android Jul 13 '11 at 16:35
more came well before less, and was named for the simple purpose that it let you handle "more" output than would fit on screen. – Stephanie Jul 14 '11 at 4:01
True, more or less. – Daniel R Hicks May 9 '12 at 18:37

I find less a bit more friendly than more because you can use the arrow keys to stroll through the file. more only scrolls screen by screen (by default).

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... And you can search with / – Canadian Luke Jan 2 '15 at 23:00

Other that it allows more scrolling features, less also doesn't need to read the whole file, i.e. it loads files faster than more

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More or less they also work well together:

more * | less

This shows the contents of matching files along with the decorated matching file and directory names.

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