The “column” command is a utility available on Unix-like operating systems that allows you to format the standard input or a file into multiple columns. It arranges the input data into a grid-like structure, with values organized into columns before filling rows. By default, the columns are separated by whitespace.
When you use the “column” command, it takes the input data and organizes it into a visually appealing columnar format. This can be particularly useful when working with large amounts of data that need to be presented in a more structured and readable manner.
The “column” command can be applied to various types of input data, including text files, command output, or piped input. It analyzes the input data and divides it into multiple columns based on the available space. The number of columns and their width are automatically determined to accommodate the data effectively.
By default, the “column” command uses whitespace as the separator between columns. However, you can specify a different delimiter using command-line options if your data is separated by a different character or string.
The “column” command provides additional options to control the formatting and alignment of the columns. You can specify the desired column width, adjust the padding between columns, and choose the alignment of the values within each column (e.g., left-aligned, right-aligned, or centered). These options allow you to customize the appearance of the formatted output according to your specific requirements.
The “column” command is commonly used in various scenarios, such as organizing tabular data, aligning text for readability, or generating visually consistent output. It simplifies the process of arranging data into columns, eliminating the need for manual formatting.
column Command Examples
1. Format the output of a command for a 30 characters wide display:
# printf "header1 header2\nbar foo\n" | column --output-width 30
2. Split columns automatically and auto-align them in a tabular format:
# printf "header1 header2\nbar foo\n" | column --table
3. Specify the column delimiter character for the –table option (e.g. “,” for CSV) (defaults to whitespace):
# printf "header1,header2\nbar,foo\n" | column --table --separator ,
4. Fill rows before filling columns:
# printf "header1\nbar\nfoobar\n" | column --output-width 30 --fillrows
In summary, the “column” command is a utility available on Unix-like systems that formats input data into multiple columns. It organizes the data in a grid-like structure, filling columns before rows. By default, whitespace is used as the column separator. The “column” command provides options to control the formatting, including column width, alignment, and padding. It simplifies the process of creating visually appealing columnar output for improved readability and presentation of data.