Skip to content
28 January 2011 / avoulk

Watching directories for file changes with inotifywait.

I was in need for a quick script that would monitor a certain directory for file changes.

The case is a quite easy one: I own a directory where the results of certain simulations are stored. As I wanted to know when a new simulation begins and what is the number of simulations already finished, I decided to take a look at the way I could handle with this new challenge.

The first attempt was an easy one, using time delays and commands like $ ls -1 | wc -l and of course $ sleep. However this was quite annoying as i kept getting multiple indications for the same number of simulation results. Then, I discovered a package named inotify-tools. inotify-tools contains several useful commands that take advantage of the inotify events dispatched by the respective Linux kernel subsystem. I am not going to list the uses of the commands contained in inotify-tools, further information can be found in the project homepage, here. Be sure to check it, it is really valuable 🙂

Anyway, a simple yet effective command that eventually did the trick for me was $ inotifywait. As stated in its manpage:

inotifywait efficiently waits for changes to files using Linux’s inotify(7) interface. It is suitable for waiting for changes to files from shell scripts. It can either exit once an event occurs, or continually execute and output events as they occur.

So, inotifywait watches a directory for file changes and fires certain events, such as create, delete, modify etc. PLUS it is really simple to use. In my case, where i wanted to check for file changes in directory $WATCH_PATH and display the file count, each time a file is created, it was fairly simple 🙂






declare -i WATCH_COUNT;

declare -i COUNTER;

inotifywait -m –format ‘%f’ -e create $WATCH_PATH | while read FILE



if [ $WATCH_COUNT -eq 1 ]; then

echo -ne “Files found: “



if [ $COUNTER -eq 1 ]; then

echo -ne “\nStarted new simulation. \nFiles found: “


echo -n “$COUNTER “;


The switches in inotifywait are quite standard and are well described in the manpage. -m states that the command should monitor the directory indefinitely (telling it not to exit upon a single file change), –format ‘%f’ describes the formatting of the output (piped to the while statement) while -e create indicates that only CREATE events are monitored. The output is the one attached 🙂

Powered by Blogilo



Leave a Comment
  1. Eric / Sep 20 2011 18:22

    Very helpful. I’m a bit of a novice to bash, and I always wondered how to get the output of inotifywait when using the -m option. Now I know! Thanks much!!

    • avoulk / Sep 20 2011 19:00

      Nice to know it helped you!

  2. fyrye / Jul 20 2012 20:19

    Thanks for the quick tutorial, it was very helpful. Perhaps an article on how to add it to startup or possibly as a service in init.d.
    For the moment I created the shell script as described in the article, then added the line exec in my /etc/rc.local file

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: