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As input, we have some ids which are strings. How do we calculate what identifier has appeared most frequently and how many times?





dog 5
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You can use the commands sort & uniq -c to count the occurrences of all the strings like this:

$ sort sample.txt | uniq -c
      4 cat
      5 dog
      1 fly
      2 spider

If you just want the one string "dog" you can use grep either before or after.


$ sort sample.txt | uniq -c | grep dog
      5 dog


$ grep dog sample.txt  | uniq -c
      5 dog

How it works

The command uniq -c will count all the unique strings that it's presented, but the list needs to be in sorted order first. Hence why we use the sort command prior to doing the tally.

The command grep is for selecting things in the output that are of interest. You can thing of grep as a filter that can act either inclusively or exclusively depending on what you want from the output.

The sort command can sort data based on rules. In this case we're letting it behave in its default mode, so it's sorting the data based on an alphanumeric set of sorting rules.

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I almost got it, well played – Creek Jun 4 '14 at 11:21
For small file sizes it doesn't matter, of course, but I guess you agree that it's kind of crazy in the general case to sort a file in order to count entries. Especially if the sorting is used for the output formatting only... – Hauke Laging Jun 4 '14 at 11:31
@HaukeLaging - this appears to be homework, so the approach I suggested would be the aim of the instructor (I'm guessing) to solve this Q. But for larger files yes you're absolutely right. – slm Jun 4 '14 at 11:36
You'll need to force the locale to C for both sort and uniq for that to work properly. Try printf '%s\n' ① ② | sort | uniq -c in a typical GNU system deployment for instance. – Stéphane Chazelas Jun 4 '14 at 13:09
Dang, slm. I saw the question and thought uniq -c! Oh well, well done. – mikeserv Jun 4 '14 at 21:22

If you are looking for one string only:

grep -cxF dog


echo "dog: $(grep -cxF dog)"

An efficient solution for a complete list:

> awk '{a[$0]++}; END {for (val in a) print val ": " a[val];}' file
spider: 2
cat: 4
fly: 1
dog: 5
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Note that that awk one will not necessarily be faster than LC_ALL=C sort | LC_ALL=C uniq -c (in my tests on a 5400000 lines file, 650644 unique, on a GNU system, it isn't) and may use-up the memory and/or reach a limitation in awk depending on the awk implementation. – Stéphane Chazelas Jun 4 '14 at 13:21
@StéphaneChazelas I cannot comment on the quality of certain awk implementations but the idea that awk which needs memory according to the number of unique lines whereas sort has to store the whole file, seems a bit strange to me. – Hauke Laging Jun 4 '14 at 13:33
sort works in batches saved in temp files to avoid filling up the memory. It may fill up the tmp filesystem, but it will not cripple the system. – Stéphane Chazelas Jun 4 '14 at 13:35

Rearrange the data with sort and count the matching occurences using uniq -c

sort < input.txt | uniq -c
share|improve this answer
You'll need to force the locale to C for both sort and uniq for that to work properly. Try printf '%s\n' ① ② | sort | uniq -c in a typical GNU system deployment for instance. – Stéphane Chazelas Jun 4 '14 at 13:10

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