How to define 'tab' delimiter with 'cut' in Bash?

Here is an example of using cut to break input into fields using a space delimiter, and obtaining the second field:

cut -f2 -d' '

How can the delimiter be defined as a tab, instead of a space?

Two ways:

Press Ctrl+V and then Tab to use "verbatim" quoted insert.

cut -f2 -d'   ' infile

or write it like this to use ANSI-C quoting:

cut -f2 -d$'t' infile

The $'...' form of quotes isn’t part of the POSIX shell language (not yet), but works at least in ksh, mksh, zsh and Busybox in addition to Bash.

Answered By: Birei
awk -F 't' '{ print $2 }' inputfile

This extracts the second tab-delimited field of each line of input from inputfile.

Answered By: Iľja

Tab is the default.

See the cut man page.

-d delim
         Use delim as the field delimiter character instead of the tab

So you can just write

cut -f 2
Answered By: Mikel

More generically, without requiring any invisible characters: Use tr to convert the delimiters to a format that can be specified more easily to cut.

$ echo -e "atbtc" |tr 't' ' ' |cut -d' ' -f2

tr is a simple, but powerful, character matching and replacement tool.

Answered By: Brent Bradburn

Alternatively, one could wrap cut in a function.

function getColumns ()
    local -r delimiter="${1:?}"
    local -r columns="${2:?}"

    if [[ "$delimiter" == 't' || "$delimter" == "tab" ]]; then
        cut "--fields=${columns}"

    cut "--delimiter=${delimiter}" "--fields=${columns}" 
Answered By: Anthony Rutledge

I use TAB and cut in these ways:

# quote the whole thing, use TAB escape
cut "-dt" -f 2
# just quote the tab escape 
cut -d "t" -f 2
# Use Ctrl-V to quote Ctrl-I (TAB is Ctrl-I, see man ascii)
cut -d^V^I -f 2
Answered By: waltinator
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