Custom file monitoring

The Evolution of a Command

From a simple beginning, the tail family of commands has evolved steadily towards greater sophistication. The ability to customize colors alone can makes colortail more efficient than the original tail command. MultiTail takes that evolution several steps further, allowing admins not only complete control over how files are displayed, but also enhanced monitoring of multiple files.

So which should you use? The answer is both a matter of taste and complexity. For simple monitoring, especially at home, colortail should be more than enough to meet your needs. Although it lacks most of the features of MultiTail, often colortail can get the job done.

By contrast, MultiTail is likely to cope best with networks or the need to monitor several files at a time. However, its sophistication comes at the price of greater complexity. The fact that its options and keyboard commands can be eccentric only makes it more difficult to learn.

Personally, I install both on my machines. That way, I can use colortail for simple file paging and MultiTail for more advanced work. In other words, I let the task decide.

The Author

Bruce Byfield is a computer journalist and a freelance writer and editor specializing in free and open source software. In addition to his writing projects, he also teaches live and e-learning courses. In his spare time, Bruce writes about Northwest coast art. You can read more of his work at

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