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Is there a tool for Windows cmd which have a feature like the less F command on Linux? It doesn't need to be a cmd tool. The only thing it needs to provide is checking for new content and "auto-scrolling" to bottom, for viewing a log file in real time.

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Actually what you need is a 'Tail' tool. –  Maurice Stam Mar 17 at 15:10

5 Answers 5

up vote 2 down vote accepted

I recently switched to LogExpert. It shows you the tail of a text file, in a GUI window. It is free, open source.

Features:

  • Tabs
  • Highlighting (UI to configure highlights is not very intuitive)
  • Supports SHIFT-JIS-encoded files, unlike Baretail.

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There is a built-in feature in Powershell which is equivalent to tail -f. I think this is available preinstalled on Windows since Windows 7. Although neither the documentation of Get-Content nor the interactive help mention the -wait option, I can confirm that it works on Windows 7 with Powershell 2.0.

Get-Content foo.log -wait

which you can abbreviate to

gc -wait foo.log

Going beyond that, there is a generic answer to “what is a Windows equivalent of the Linux tool X”: Cygwin. Cygwin is a port of many Linux programs to Windows, including less. You can install it and keep all your Linux habits.

Scripting works out of the box, as long as you ensure that the Cygwin directories come first in your PATH (there are a few utility names that clash, such as find which is Windows's excuse for a grep).

Terminal-based tools work under Cmd, in a Windows console window, but the Windows console is very limited. I recommend PuttyCyg as a terminal emulator; it offers a Linux terminal interface in a native Windows window. PuttyCyg appears to Cygwin progarms as a terminal, but to Windows programs as a pipe; if you want to run both native Windows and Cygwin programs in the same terminal, use Console2 or ConEmu instead.

GUI programs require an X server. Cygwin provides one. The integration in the Windows environment isn't seamless though, so I usually don't use it.

So my recommendation is: install Cygwin, run its less program inside PuttyCyg.

If you don't want to install Cygwin… well, I can't think of a reason not to do that, but the less F feature is called tailing, after the tail program and its -f option which was the first to provide this behavior. A web search for “Windows tail” turns up several likely-looking hits, but I can't comment on them since I haven't used them.

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Cygwin is exactly what I was gonna propose. +1 I didn't know about the Powershell function, that would deserve another +1 –  Johnride Mar 15 at 14:27
    
gc doesn't seem to be reliable for very big logfiles. –  Dev0r Mar 16 at 15:47
    
@Dev0r I don't use Powershell, I just tested it on a sample file when I wrote this answer. What's the problem? How does it break? –  Gilles Mar 16 at 15:52
    
@Gilles No new data will be shown on very big logfiles. Doesn't scrolls to bottom or shows new data. –  Dev0r Mar 16 at 16:43

I develop a Windows application and use BareTail to watch its log file in real time.

You can set it to highlight patterns, which is very convenient when there is too much to read. Unlike the Linux command, it remembers the file you were watching last time, which can save some retyping. By the way it is a graphical program, not command-line.

I was using Get-Content xxx.txt -Wait before but I did not find it very reliable, it was stopping sometimes and not showing everything. BareTail on the contrary has never failed on me.

It is proprietary, with a free version and some nagging.

enter image description here

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I have used WinTail in the past, its free to try (30 days) and costs 50$ after that.

It opens a window where you can track the changes of multiple files. I had no problems opening huge files and keeping track of them. It has a threshold of how many lines you want to keep in cache.

The highlight function lets you get direct notice whet specific keywords appear (through sound and highlighting of the window) if you need that.

Also as I was doing this to monitor output of software I wrote I found it very convenient to use regular expressions for the highlighting.

Main Window Screenshot

Please do note that I last used this tool in 2008 on a XP machine, it might have changed since then and might be incompatible with current versions of windows, but their homepage says its up to date.

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I use GnuWin (free) for using this kind of basic GNU tools in Windows. It provides ports of many tools such as less, find, ls, etc, which can then use withing cmd.

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Advantages (answer to Caleb's comment):

  • vs. Cygwin: 1) disk space 2) accessible from cmd.
  • vs. MSYS: more programs (ca. 1000 vs 100).
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What advantage would this be over Cygwin which is a more full blown system or MinGW which is lean but well supported and might already be available (as git-bash) if they have git installed? –  Caleb Mar 15 at 18:04
    
vs. Cygwin: 1) disk space 2) accessible from cmd. –  Franck Dernoncourt Mar 15 at 18:06
    
vs. MSYS: more programs (ca. 1000 vs 100). –  Franck Dernoncourt Mar 15 at 18:10

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