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What's a good way of extracting say, lines 20 -45 out of a huge text file. Non-interactively of course!

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Why is this tagged "gnu"? This is just a question about UNIX shell scripting. –  dkagedal Sep 15 '10 at 23:22
I feel that it should be removed aswell, but like xenoterracide once said, I don't feel strongly enough about it to do it myself –  Stefan Sep 16 '10 at 8:53
Can't remember if tagged it as 'gnu' myself or not :-) Anyway this question could be answered with or without GNU, so the tag adds nothing, so I changed it. –  Chris Huang-Leaver Oct 31 '10 at 7:43

5 Answers 5

up vote 8 down vote accepted

you could try:

cat textfile | head -n 45 | tail -n 26


cat textfile | awk "20 <= NR && NR <= 45" 


As Mahomedalid pointed out, cat is not necessary and a bit redundant, but it does make for a clean, readable command.

If cat does bother you, a better sollution would be:

<textfile awk "20 <= NR && NR <= 45"
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You get +1 for being first, but Mahomedalid gets +1 for pointing out the useless use of cat. :) –  Annika Backstrom Sep 15 '10 at 16:05
awk NR==20,NR==45 textfile works too, and reads easily. –  ephemient Sep 16 '10 at 1:47
I like the the use of stdin more, it has some global consistancy with the rest of nix –  Stefan Sep 16 '10 at 8:52
Reading from command line arguments has consistency with other UNIX utilities too, and my main point was to demonstrate awk's , range operator. –  ephemient Sep 17 '10 at 18:10
lol, i meant @adam. but yes, I like your suggestion –  Stefan Nov 3 '10 at 4:03

Even simpler:

sed -n 20,45p < textfile

The -n flag disables the default output. The "20,45" addresses lines 20 to 45, inclusive. And the "p" command prints the current line.

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+1 nice, i Like, but its line 20 to 45 :) –  Stefan Sep 15 '10 at 18:53
ok ok, I edited it to say 20,45 :-) –  dkagedal Sep 15 '10 at 23:20

Actually, you don't need the cat, with:

head textfile -n 45 | tail -n 25


awk "NR > 19 && NR < 46" texfile

it's enough

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yes, I know ppl always talk about UUOC (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cat_(Unix)%23Useless_use_of_cat) and how it is more costly, but still cat is way cleaner and more readable IMO. –  Lazer Sep 15 '10 at 18:46
i know im beeing a stickler for detail here, but the first head command won't give lines 20-45, but 45-65.... –  Stefan Sep 15 '10 at 19:27
actually... it gives the lines 41 to 65 –  Stefan Sep 15 '10 at 22:06
ruby -ne 'print if 20 .. 45' file
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a fellow rubyist, you get my vote sir –  Stefan Sep 16 '10 at 16:36
While we're at it, why not python -c 'import fileinput, sys; [sys.stdout.write(line) for nr, line in enumerate(fileinput.input()) if 19 <= nr <= 44]' too? :-P This is something that Ruby, modeled after Perl, inspired by awk/sed, can do easily. –  ephemient Sep 17 '10 at 18:21

Since sed and awk were already taken, here is a perl solution:

perl -nle "print if ($. > 19 && $. < 46)" < textfile

Or, as pointed out in the comments:

perl -ne 'print if 20..45' textfile
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What's with all those extra characters? No need to strip and re-add newlines, flip-flop assumes comparison to line number, and diamond operator runs through arguments if provided. perl -ne'print if 20..45' textfile –  ephemient Sep 15 '10 at 21:09
Nice. -nle is a bit of a reflex I suppose, as for the rest, I have no excuse save ignorance. –  Steven D Sep 15 '10 at 21:17

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