Sort .csv Files by Columns in Command Line

2020 Jun 2

The sort command can be used to sort .csv files by specific columns.

Have an example .csv file like below.

$ cat orders.csv
user,date,product,amount,unit price

To sort orders by highest unit price, run the command below.

$ sort -r --field-separator=',' --key=5 -n orders.csv
user,date,product,amount,unit price

The --field-separator option (or -t) specifies , as the field separator character. By default, sort considers blank space as the field separator character. The --key=5 let sort use the fifth field of lines to sort the lines. The -n is to sort numerically, and -r is to sort in reverse order.

To fix the headers of the .csv file at the very first row after sorting, process substitution can be used.

$ cat <(head -1 orders.csv) \
      <(tail -n +2 orders.csv|sort -r --field-separator=',' --key=5 -n)
user,date,product,amount,unit price

To sort orders by highest unit price and amount, provide multiple --key options as below.

$ cat <(head -1 orders.csv) \
      <(tail -n +2 orders.csv|sort -r -t ',' -k 5 -k 4 -n)
user,date,product,amount,unit price

The format of value of --field-separator could be a bit more complex. For example, to sort orders by the day of order date, run the command below.

$ sort -t , -n -k 2.9 orders.csv
user,date,product,amount,unit price

The -k 2.9 means for each line sort uses strings which starts from the ninth position of the second field till the end of the line.

The -k 2.9,5 means for each line sort only looks at strings which starts from the ninth position of the second field and ends at the last character of the fifth field. The -k 2.9,5.2 means sort only looks at strings which starts from the ninth position of the second field and ends at the second character of the fifth field.

For more details, check the man sort.


Process Substitution

2019 Dec 19

From man bash, for “process substitution” it says

It takes the form of <(list) or >(list)

Note: there is no space between < or > and (.

Also, it says,

The process list is run with its input or output connected to a FIFO or some file in /dev/fd. The name of this file is passed as an argument to the current command as the result of the expansion.

The <(list) Form

$ diff <(echo a) <(echo b)
< a
> b

Usually the diff takes two files and compares them. The process substitution here, <(echo a), creates a file in /dev/fd, for example /dev/fd/63. The stdout of echo a command is connected to /dev/fd/63. Meanwhile, /dev/fd/63 is used as an input file/parameter of diff command. Similar for <(echo b). After Bash does the substitution, the command is like diff /dev/fd/63 /dev/fd/64. In diff’s point of view, it just compares two normal files.

In this example, one advantage of process substitution is eliminating the need of temporary files, like

$ echo a > tmp.a && echo b > tmp.b \ 
    && diff tmp.a tmp.b            \
    && rm tmp.{a,b}

The >(list) Form

$ echo . | tee >(ls)

Similar, Bash creates a file in /dev/fd when it sees >(ls). Again, let’s say the file is /dev/fd/63. Bash connects /dev/fd/63 with stdin of ls command, also the file /dev/fd/63 is used as a parameter of tee command. The tee views /dev/fd/63 as a normal file. tee writes content, here is ., into the file, and the content will “pipe” into the stdin of ls.

Compare with Pipe

Pipe, cmd-a | cmd-b, basically just passes stdout of the command on the left to the stdin of the command on the right. Its data flow is restricted, which is from left to right.

Process substitution has more freedom.

# use process substitution
$ grep -f <(echo hello) file-a
# use pipe
$ echo hello | xargs -I{} grep {} file-a

And for commands like diff <(echo a) <(echo b), it’s not easy to be done by pipe.

More Examples

$ paste <(echo hello) <(echo world)
hello   world

How it works

From man bash,

Process substitution is supported on systems that support named pipes (FIFOs) or the /dev/fd method of naming open files.

Read more about named pipe and /dev/fd.

For /dev/fd,

The main use of the /dev/fd files is from the shell. It allows programs that use pathname arguments to handle standard input and standard output in the same manner as other pathnames.

In my OS (Ubuntu), the Bash uses /dev/fd for process substitution.

$ ls -l <(echo .)
lr-x------ 1 user user 64 12月 19 11:19 /dev/fd/63 -> pipe:[4926830]

Bash replaces <(echo .) with /dev/fd/63. The above command is like ls -l /dev/fd/63.

Or find the backing file via,

$ echo <(true)

(After my Bash does the substitution, the command becomes echo /dev/fd/63, which outputs /dev/fd/63.)


Daily Dev Log: "--help" vs. "man"

2019 Jun 24

We just can’t remember options of CLI tools. In most cases, --help, like grep --help, is the go-to way to look for help.

For example, if you forget what -H of grep does.

$ grep --help | grep -- -H
  -H, --with-filename       print the file name for each match

man is too formal, wordy and overwhelming, comparing with --help. Usually, we can find out most of what we want in the output of --help, without turning to man.

In some environments, man pages may not be available there. One such example is Git Bash for Windows. Commands in Git Bash for Windows don’t have man pages. Relying on man only means you have to google the man(ual) in the browsers.

To save some typing, a bash function can also be added into the ~/.bashrc.

h() { $1 --help; }

Then type h grep to show the help.

Note that different commands or different variants of a command may print help text in different verbosity. For example, the builtin grep in OS X prints help text like below.

$ grep --help
usage: grep [-abcDEFGHhIiJLlmnOoqRSsUVvwxZ] [-A num] [-B num] [-C[num]]
	[-e pattern] [-f file] [--binary-files=value] [--color=when]
	[--context[=num]] [--directories=action] [--label] [--line-buffered]
	[--null] [pattern] [file ...]

It’s much less than the Linux grep’s help text. (Most of CLI tools support this level of help text at least.)


xargs is Slow

2019 May 29
# filepaths.txt is a file with thousands lines
cat filepaths.txt | xargs -n 1 basename

It takes a while (seconds) to finish running the above command. A file with thousands lines usually is not considered as a big volume. Why is xargs slow in the above command?

After read a SO post, it turns out xargs in the above command runs basename thousands times, therefore it has bad performance.

Can it be faster?

According to man xargs,

xargs reads items from the standard input … delimited by blanks … or newlines and executes the command … followed by items read from standard input. The command line for command is built up until it reaches a system-defined limit (unless the -n and -L options are used). … In general, there will be many fewer invocations of command than there were items in the input.
This will normally have significant performance benefits.

It means xargs can pass a batch of “items” to the command. Unfortunately, the -n 1 option in the command forces xargs to just take one “item” a time. To make it fast, use the -a option of basename, which let basename be able to handle multiple arguments at once.

time cat filepaths.txt | xargs -n 1 basename > /dev/null 

real    0m2.409s
user    0m0.044s
sys     0m0.332s
time cat filepaths.txt | xargs basename -a > /dev/null 

real    0m0.004s
user    0m0.000s
sys     0m0.000s

Thousands times faster.

cat /dev/null | xargs --show-limits --no-run-if-empty

Your environment variables take up 2027 bytes
POSIX upper limit on argument length (this system): 2093077
POSIX smallest allowable upper limit on argument length (all systems): 4096
Maximum length of command we could actually use: 2091050
Size of command buffer we are actually using: 131072
Maximum parallelism (--max-procs must be no greater): 2147483647

It shows xargs can feed a lot bytes into the command once (2091050 bytes here).


Some commands can usefully be executed in parallel too; see the -P option.


Daily Dev Log: "su - app" vs. "su app"

2019 Jan 24

From man su,

   -, -l, --login
      Provide an environment similar to what the user would expect had the user logged in directly.

So with su - app, after switch to the user app, you end up in the user’s HOME directory, and have the user’s ~/.bash_profile (not ~/.bashrc) executed.

Tools like RVM need a “login shell”.

RVM by default adds itself currently to ~/.bash_profile file

So if use su app, RVM will not be ready there for you after su.


Daily Dev Log: Avoid the Pitfall of Using the Same File to Redirect Input and Output

2019 Jan 15


Do Not Use the Same File to Redirect Input and Output

tr -d '\015' <DOS-file >DOS-file

The above command will delete all content in the file!

From man bash,

[n]>word, if it does exist it is truncated to zero size.

(How did I find the file back? Luckily, the working directory is managed by Dropbox, and I found it back in the Dropbox.)


Convert Line Endings from DOS/Windows Style to Unix/Linux Style

tr -d '\015' <DOS-file >UNIX-file

(For what character \015 is, see man 7 ascii or ascii '\015' if the ascii command is installed.)

More ascii Command Examples

$ ascii '\r'
ASCII 0/13 is decimal 013, hex 0d, octal 015, bits 00001101: called ^M, CR
Official name: Carriage Return
C escape: '\r'
Other names: 

Search Manuals

-k Search the short descriptions and manual page names for the keyword

$ man -k ascii
ascii (1)            - report character aliases
ascii (7)            - ASCII character set encoded in octal, decimal, and hexadecimal

Miss Newline Characters When "cat" Text Files

2019 Jan 4

The cat is often used to concatenate text files into one single file. In most cases, the cat works fine like below.

$ echo line 1 > file1.txt
$ echo line 2 > file2.txt
$ cat file{1,2}.txt
line 1
line 2

However, if some of files to be concatenated don’t end with the newline character, using cat to concatenate files may not generate expected file.

# -n, let echo not add the trailing newline character
$ echo -n line 1 > file1.txt
$ echo line 2 > file2.txt
$ cat file{1,2}.txt
line 1line 2

Note that in the above example, file1.txt doesn’t end with newline, so when two files concatenated there is no newline between them. This may not be the expected result. For example, we have multiple large text files. Every line in each file is a user ID. We want to concatenate these files into one file to be fed into a processing program at once. If some of files are not ended with newline, using cat may generate ill user IDs like user-id-foouser-id-bar. If the input volume is huge, these problematic IDs usually would not be detected by human eyes.

If the newlines between files is important in your case, using awk is safer.

# -n, let echo not add the trailing newline character
$ echo -n line 1 > file1.txt
$ echo line 2 > file2.txt
$ $ awk 1 file{1,2}.txt
line 1
line 2

See this SO answer.

Also, it’s a good idea to tune text editors to always show non-printable characters like the newline. Or, use cat -e, which prints invisible characters and a $ for the newline.

$ cat -e file1.txt | tail -1

grep Command Examples

2019 Jan 1

First, grep –help lists most of its options, which is the go-to command for most grep questions.

Like most CLI tools, options of grep can be combined. For example, -io is same as -i -o, -A3 is same as -A 3. Also, the options can be anywhere in the command.

$ grep hello a.txt -i --color

Stop after first match

$ grep -m 1 search-word file

-m, –max-count=NUM stop after NUM matches

Only print the 1000th match.

$ grep -m1000 search-word file | tail -n1
$ grep -l search-word *.txt

-l, –files-with-matches print only names of FILEs containing matches

It’s useful when you grep lots of files and only care about names of matched files.

Find unmatched files

-L, –files-without-match print only names of FILEs containing no match

-L is the opposite of -l option. It outputs the files which don’t contain the word to search.

$ grep -L search-word *.txt

Show line number of matched lines

$ grep -n search-word file

-n, –line-number print line number with output lines

Don’t output filename when grep multiple files

When grep multiple files, by default filename is included in the output. Like,

$ grep hello *.txt

Use -h to not output filenames.

$ grep -h hello *.txt

-h, –no-filename suppress the file name prefix on output

Search in “binary” files

Sometimes, a text file may contains a few non-printable characters, which makes grep consider it as a “binary” file. grep doesn’t print matched lines for a “binary” file.

$ printf "hello\000" > test.txt
$ grep hello test.txt 
Binary file test.txt matches

Use -a to let grep know the file should be seen as a “text” file.

$ grep -a hello test.txt 

-a, –text equivalent to –binary-files=text

Search in directories

-r, –recursive like –directories=recurse

-R, –dereference-recursive likewise, but follow all symlinks

Without specifying a directory, grep searches in current working directory by default.

$ grep -R hello

Specify directories.

$ grep -R hello tmp/ tmp2/

–include=FILE_PATTERN search only files that match FILE_PATTERN

Use --include to tell grep the pattern of the filenames you’re interested in.

$ grep -R hello --include="*.md"

-i, –ignore-case ignore case distinctions

$ grep -i Hello a.txt 

The pattern to search begins with - (hyphen)

$ grep -- -hello a.txt

To know what -L option does.

$ grep --help | grep -- -L
  -L, --files-without-match  print only names of FILEs containing no match

Daily Dev Log: Find Lines in One File but Not in Another

2018 Dec 12

We can use comm to find lines in one file but not in another file

# fine lines only in file-a
comm -23 file-a file-b

From comm --help,

-2 suppress column 2 (lines unique to FILE2)

-3 suppress column 3 (lines that appear in both files)

So to find lines exist in both file-a and file-b.

comm -12 file-a file-b

Google keywords: “linux command two file not contain” hit link



2018 Apr 11

Windows上的Git BASH提供了大部分常用的Linux命令行工具,比如grep、sed等,但是并没有提供tmux。 实际上Git for Windows提供了包管理(package management)功能,

Git for Windows is based on MSYS2 which bundles Arch Linux’ Pacman tool for dependency management.

借助pacman,Git for Windows可以安装额外的命令行工具,比如tmux。 但是,在Git BASH里,pacman并没有默认开启

This is intended. We do not ship pacman with Git for Windows. If you are interested in a fully fledged package manager maintained environment you have to give the Git for Windows SDK a try.

需要安装Git for Windows SDK来开启pacman。 安装好之后,打开Git SDK(和Git Bash一样,是一个终端模拟器),

$ pacman -Ss tmux


msys/tmux 2.6-1
	A terminal multiplexer
msys/tmux-git 2.5.94.g73b9328c-1 
	A terminal multiplexer
$ pacman -S msys/tmux-git


$ pacman -S msys/tmux
warning: database file for 'git-for-windows-mingw32' does not exist
error: failed to prepare transaction (could not find database)


#Server =

#Server =

安装好之后,就可以在Windows上(Git SDK)使用tmux了。

tmux on Windows

pacman的用法可参见Git for Windows的Wiki

环境:Windows 10

(如果发现某些程序,比如ssh,报错,可以尝试用pacman -Syu升级所有package。)


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