What is the Use of the Touch Command in Terminal?


In the world of computer systems and programming, the command line interface is a powerful tool. One of the essential commands at your disposal is the “touch” command. But what is the use of the touch command in the terminal, and why is it so valuable? In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the myriad applications of this command, from file creation to timestamp modification. Whether you’re a seasoned developer or a curious beginner, understanding the touch command will enhance your command line prowess.

The Basics of the Touch Command

At its core, the touch command serves a simple but vital purpose: it allows you to create empty files. This basic functionality is invaluable for various tasks, such as scripting, log management, and software development. To use the touch command, simply open your terminal and type:

touch filename.ext

Replace “filename.ext” with the desired name of your file and its extension. Voila! You’ve just created a new empty file.

Creating Multiple Files

The Touch Command for Bulk File Creation

Sometimes, you need to generate multiple files simultaneously. Here’s where the touch command truly shines. By providing a list of filenames as arguments, you can create several empty files in one go. For instance:

touch file1.txt file2.txt file3.txt

This command will create three empty text files: file1.txt, file2.txt, and file3.txt.

Updating Timestamps

Modifying Access and Modification Timestamps

The touch command is not limited to file creation alone. It can also update the access and modification timestamps of existing files. This feature is particularly useful when you need to simulate changes or organize your files by date.

To change the access and modification timestamps of a file, use the touch command with the “-a” (access) or “-m” (modification) option. For instance:

touch -a filename.ext

This will update the access timestamp of the file without altering its content.

Touch Command and Directory Creation

Creating Empty Directories

While primarily used for working with files, the touch command can also create empty directories. This may seem counterintuitive since directories are typically created with the “mkdir” command. However, there are situations where creating an empty directory using touch can be beneficial. To do this, use the “-d” option:

touch -d directoryname

This will create an empty directory named “directoryname.”

The Touch Command for Scripting

Automation and Scripting with Touch

The touch command is a favorite among scriptwriters and developers. It’s an invaluable tool for automating file creation and timestamp updates within scripts. Whether you’re writing a backup script or a log manager, incorporating touch commands can streamline your processes.

Here’s a simple example of how touch can be used in a script:


# Create a log file with a timestamp
log_filename="log_$(date +'%Y-%m-%d').txt"
touch "$log_filename"

# Add log entries
echo "Log entry 1" >> "$log_filename"
echo "Log entry 2" >> "$log_filename"

# Script continues...

This script creates a log file with the current date in its filename, then appends log entries to it.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can the touch command modify the timestamp to a specific date and time?

No, the touch command cannot set timestamps to a specific date and time. It can only update them to the current date and time.

Is the touch command available on all operating systems?

The touch command is commonly found on Unix-like systems, including Linux and macOS. It may not be available on Windows by default, but there are third-party alternatives.

Can I use the touch command to create files with different extensions?

Yes, you can use the touch command to create files with various extensions. Simply specify the desired filename and extension, like “file.txt” or “image.jpg.”

Is there a limit to the number of files I can create with the touch command at once?

There is typically no hard limit to the number of files you can create with the touch command simultaneously. However, practical constraints like available system resources may apply.

Are there any risks associated with using the touch command?

The touch command itself is relatively safe to use. However, exercise caution when running commands in the terminal, especially with administrative privileges, to avoid unintended consequences.

Can I use the touch command in Windows PowerShell?

Yes, you can use the touch command in PowerShell on Windows, provided you have the appropriate tools installed.

What is the use of touch command in terminal?

The touch command in the terminal is used to create empty files or update the access and modification timestamps of existing files.

When to use touch Linux?

You should use the touch command in Linux when you want to create a new empty file, update timestamps, or ensure a file exists without modifying its content.

Where is touch command in Linux?

The touch command in Linux is typically located in the /usr/bin directory, and you can run it from any terminal.

What is touch command in Linux example?

An example of using the touch command in Linux is:

touch myfile.txt

This will create a new empty file named myfile.txt.


The touch command in the terminal is a versatile and powerful tool for file manipulation and system management. Whether you’re creating files, updating timestamps, or enhancing your scripting skills, understanding how to use touch is essential for any command line enthusiast. By following the guidance in this article, you’ve taken a significant step toward mastering this invaluable command. So, go ahead and explore the many possibilities that the touch command offers in your terminal adventures!

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