Software & Apps Linux How to Output Text to the Screen Using the Linux Echo Command Display text in your Linux terminal window by Gary Newell Writer Gary Newell was a freelance contributor, application developer, and software tester with 20+ years in IT, working on Linux, UNIX, and Windows. our editorial process Gary Newell Updated on February 13, 2020 Linux Switching from Windows Tweet Share Email This guide shows you how to output text to the terminal window using the Linux echo command. Used on its own in the terminal the echo command isn't particularly useful but when used as part of the script it can be used to display instructions, errors, and notifications. Example Uses of the Linux Echo Command In its simplest form the easiest way to output text to the terminal is as follows: echo "hello world" The above command outputs the words "hello world" to the screen (minus the quotation marks). By default, the echo statement outputs a new line character at the end of the string. To test this try the following statement in a terminal window: echo "hello world" && echo "goodbye world" You will see that the result is as follows: hello worldgoodbye world You can omit the new line character by adding the minus n switch (-n) as follows: echo -n "hello world " && echo "goodbye world" The result from the above command is as follows: hello world goodbye world Using Special Characters Another thing to think about when using the echo statement is how it handles special characters. For example, try out the following in a terminal window: echo "hello world\r\ngoodbye world" In an ideal world, the \r and \n would act as special characters to add a new line but they don't. The result is as follows: hello world\r\ngoodbye world You can enable special characters using the echo command by including the -e switch as follows: echo -e "hello world\r\ngoodbye world" This time the result will be as follows: hello worldgoodbye world You could, of course, be in the situation whereby you are trying to output a string that would be handled as a special character and you don't want it to. In this scenario use a capital e as follows: echo -E "hello world\r\ngoodbye world" Which special characters are handled using the -e switch? \\ backslash\a alert\b backspace\c produce no further output\e escape\f form feed\n new line\r carriage return\t horizontal tab\v vertical tab\ 0NNN octal value with 1 to 3 digits\xHH byte with hexadecimal value Let's try a couple of these out. Run the following command in a terminal: echo -e "hel\blo world" The above command would output the following: helo world Obviously not really what you would want to output to the screen but you get the point that backslash b removes the preceding letter. Now try the following in a terminal window: echo -e "hello\c world" This command outputs everything up until the backslash and c. Everything else is omitted including the new line. Line Character and Carriage Return So what is the difference between a new line character and a carriage return? The new line character moves the cursor down to the next line whereas the carriage return moves the cursor back to the left side. As an example enter the following into your terminal window: echo -e "hello\nworld" The output of the above command puts the two words on different lines: helloworld Now try this out in a terminal window: echo -e "hello\rworld" The difference between a new line and carriage return will become very apparent as the following will be displayed as an output: world The word hello was displayed, the carriage return took the cursor to the beginning of the line and the word world was displayed. It becomes a little more obvious if you try the following: echo -e The output from the above is as follows: In reality using many people still use the \r\n notation when outputting to a new line. Quite often, however, you can get away with just a \n.