watch — execute a program periodically, showing output fullscreen

Examples (TL;DR)


watch [options] command


watch runs command repeatedly, displaying its output and errors (the first screenfull).  This allows you to watch the program output change over time.  By default, command is run every 2 seconds and watch will run until interrupted.


-d, --differences [permanent]

Highlight the differences between successive updates.  Option will read optional argument that changes highlight to be permanent, allowing to see what has changed at least once since first iteration.

-n, --interval seconds

Specify update interval.  The command will not allow quicker than 0.1 second interval, in which the smaller values are converted. Both '.' and ',' work for any locales.

-p, --precise

Make watch attempt to run command every interval seconds. Try it with ntptime and notice how the fractional seconds stays (nearly) the same, as opposed to normal mode where they continuously increase.

-t, --no-title

Turn off the header showing the interval, command, and current time at the top of the display, as well as the following blank line.

-b, --beep

Beep if command has a non-zero exit.

-e, --errexit

Freeze updates on command error, and exit after a key press.

-g, --chgexit

Exit when the output of command changes.

-c, --color

Interpret ANSI color and style sequences.

-x, --exec

Pass command to exec(2) instead of sh -c which reduces the need to use extra quoting to get the desired effect.

-h, --help

Display help text and exit.

-v, --version

Display version information and exit.

Exit Status




Various failures.


Forking the process to watch failed.


Replacing child process stdout with write side pipe failed.


Command execution failed.


Closing child process write pipe failed.


IPC pipe creation failed.


Getting child process return value with waitpid(2) failed, or command exited up on error.


The watch will propagate command exit status as child exit status.


POSIX option processing is used (i.e., option processing stops at the first non-option argument).  This means that flags after command don't get interpreted by watch itself.


Upon terminal resize, the screen will not be correctly repainted until the next scheduled update.  All --differences highlighting is lost on that update as well.

Non-printing characters are stripped from program output.  Use "cat -v" as part of the command pipeline if you want to see them.

Combining Characters that are supposed to display on the character at the last column on the screen may display one column early, or they may not display at all.

Combining Characters never count as different in --differences mode.  Only the base character counts.

Blank lines directly after a line which ends in the last column do not display.

--precise mode doesn't yet have advanced temporal distortion technology to compensate for a command that takes more than interval seconds to execute. watch also can get into a state where it rapid-fires as many executions of command as it can to catch up from a previous executions running longer than interval (for example, netstat taking ages on a DNS lookup).


To watch for mail, you might do

watch -n 60 from

To watch the contents of a directory change, you could use

watch -d ls -l

If you're only interested in files owned by user joe, you might use

watch -d 'ls -l | fgrep joe'

To see the effects of quoting, try these out

watch echo $$
watch echo '$$'
watch echo "'"'$$'"'"

To see the effect of precision time keeping, try adding -p to

watch -n 10 sleep 1

You can watch for your administrator to install the latest kernel with

watch uname -r

(Note that -p isn't guaranteed to work across reboots, especially in the face of ntpdate or other bootup time-changing mechanisms)

Referenced By


2018-03-03 procps-ng