Here is an example of the data I'd like to modify:


I try to achieve this:


When a name is alone on a line, it becomes a new column in all the rows below til the next name with the same pattern occurs.

I wonder if awk or another tool could help but I'm a bit lost.

I try to make a condition (if columns 2 and 3 are empty, do something) but that looks a bit complicated for me right now.

  • 1
    Welcome to Unix Stackexchange! You can take the tour first and the learn How to Ask a good question. That makes it easier for us to help you. – andcoz Feb 7 '17 at 14:19
  • Please, give us some example of what you tried so far. – andcoz Feb 7 '17 at 14:26
  • Of course. I tested the pattern with – Plouf Feb 7 '17 at 14:28
  • Of course. Here it is. I tested the pattern with: awk -F, '/,,/ {print $1}' file1 and now I try to put use each of these $1 to make a new column in the following lines until the pattern reappears. But I struggle to do this. Maybe a while condition ("while I have not this /,,/ on a line"). – Plouf Feb 7 '17 at 14:35

You are thinking on the right lines:

I try to make a condition (if columns 2 and 3 are empty, do something)


  • if columns 2 and 3 are empty, save the value of column 1 and continue
  • otherwise, prepend the saved value to the line and print it (there are several awkish ways to do this)

So for example

awk -F, '$2=="" && $3=="" {pfx=$1; next} {print pfx "," $0}' file.csv

or more idiomatically using the FS field separator variable

awk -F, '$2=="" && $3=="" {pfx=$1; next} {$0 = pfx FS $0; print}' file.csv

or (since the default action - when a rule evaluates true or 1 - is to print the record)

awk -F, '$2=="" && $3=="" {pfx=$1; next} {$0 = pfx FS $0} 1' file.csv
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    I would use the OFS awk -F, -v OFS=, '... {print pfx, $0}' – glenn jackman Feb 7 '17 at 21:20
  • @steeldriver thanks, it's very helpful to me! – Plouf Feb 8 '17 at 5:27

Perl alternative:

$ perl -F',' -lane 'if(@F == 1){$prefix = sprintf("%s,",@F);next;};print $prefix . $_' input.csv

This operates on the premise that each line is split into array of elements using , as operator, and if there's only one item in that array,we use that line as prefix and go to next line. Other lines that are longer than 1 element will get prefix appended to them. Naturally, the prefix changes if and only if the array is of length 1.

Or shorter, using shift as suggested by Glenn Jackman:

$ perl -F',' -lane 'if(@F == 1){$prefix = shift @F;next;};print $prefix . "," . $_' input.csv       


$ perl -F, -lane '$,=","; if (1 == @F) {$name = shift @F} else {print $name, @F}' input.csv
  • @Theophrastus Fixed. Thank you for pointing out the mistake – Sergiy Kolodyazhnyy Feb 7 '17 at 21:23
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    A little more succinct: perl -F, -lane '$,=","; if (1 == @F) {$name = shift @F} else {print $name, @F}' file – glenn jackman Feb 7 '17 at 21:24
  • My first suggestion misses the first comma. – glenn jackman Feb 7 '17 at 21:25
  • @glennjackman interesting, so @F in (1 == @F) is automatically evaluated as scalar ? – Sergiy Kolodyazhnyy Feb 7 '17 at 21:26
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    A list in scalar context is taken as the number of elements: perl -le '@l=(1,2,3,4); print @l; print 0+@l' -- note that can harm readability: for production code I would use scalar() – glenn jackman Feb 7 '17 at 21:30

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