We can use the column utility to transform standard input or a file content into tabular form of multiple columns, for a much clear output. 


To understand more clearly, we have created a following file “rootadminz-authors.txt” which contains a list of top 5 authors names, number of articles written and number of comments they received on the article till now.


To demonstrate this, run the cat command below to view the rootadminz-authors.txt file.

$ cat rootadminz-authors.txt


Sample Output


Using the column command, we can display a much clear output as follows, where the -t helps to determine the number of columns the input contains and creates a table and the -s specifies a delimiter character.

$ cat rootadminz-authors.txt  | column -t -s "|"


Sample Output
pos  author         articles  comments
1    vyga           741       9785
2    sreelal        679       7894
3    anita          914       2349
4    jarvis         842       3256
5    anupama        128       2378


By default, rows are filled before columns, to fill columns before filling rows use the -x switch and to instruct column command consider empty lines (which are ignored by default), include the -e flag.

For more information, see the columns man page:

$ man column 


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