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Is there a robust command line tool for processing csv files?

I can use cut to extract columns from a file:

$ cat foo

$ cut -d\, -f2 foo

But what if a column has a delimiter in it that is safe inside an enclosure like this?

$ cat foo
foo,"hello, world",bar

$ cut -d\, -f2 temp12

Is there some way to tell cut to respect the enclosure of quote "" characters?

  • 3
    Strictly speaking, the answer is: no, you need a proper CSV parser. – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Nov 27 '12 at 0:13
  • You could quickly code up csv output script using some python or perl. – sparticvs Nov 27 '12 at 3:06

cut could do it if you first preprocess its input to escape the characters inside the quotes (for instance, replace "_" with "_u" and "," with "_c" inside quotes, or replace every character with their 2-byte hex notation) and postprocess it to restore that escaping.

Something like:

perl -pe 's/"(.*?)"/"\"".unpack("H*", $1)."\""/ge' |
  cut -d, -f2 |
  perl -pe 's/"(.*?)"/"\"".pack("H*",$1)."\""/ge'

(assuming there's no escaped quotes inside (or outside) the quotes).

But, given the effort it would require, you might as well use a proper csv parser or do it whole with a perl-like regular expression engine.

  • 1
    I don't think this is the solution he should be looking for. – Bernhard Nov 27 '12 at 15:50

Definitely not for GNU cut, at least:

/* The delimeter character for field mode. */ static unsigned char delim;

(as seen in GNU coreutils source)

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