I would like to divide multiple text files in a directory into many smaller text files by a given character count. For example, I want each file in the directory to be divided into smaller text files of 100 characters each. From what I understand, the split command in linux only works by lines not character count so I'm not sure if that would work.

Edit: I am also interested in finding out how to divide the text files by word count.

  • Sorry @John1024 I meant character count. I edited the post
    – Myth
    Commented Jun 30, 2020 at 0:40
  • 1
    If you split text files by character count, they will not (strictly) be text files any more. Many lines will be split in the middle, so many files will end with an unterminated (and incomplete) line, and many will start with an incomplete line. Somewhere down the track, that is going to create issues for you. Commented Jun 30, 2020 at 9:40
  • @Paul_Pedant How might I do it by word count instead?
    – Myth
    Commented Jun 30, 2020 at 10:23

2 Answers 2


If the files are ASCII text, you can use split -b100. This means 100 bytes, which is always 100 ASCII characters.

  • 1
    Thanks, it is in ASCII. How would I do this for each file in the directory and clean it up by removing the original files?
    – Myth
    Commented Jun 30, 2020 at 1:20
  • 3
    I would be careful with automatically removing files. I always prefer to clean them up later, after I've made sure that the new files are correct. That said, it's easy: for file in *; do split -b100 "$file" && rm "$file"; done Commented Jun 30, 2020 at 1:43
  • Would there also be a way to do the same thing with word count instead?
    – Myth
    Commented Jun 30, 2020 at 4:15
  • Not that I know of, sorry. Commented Jun 30, 2020 at 19:27

Not precisely what you asked for, but may be adapted.

This processes all files with suffix .txt in the current directory. For each file (e.g. Cairo.txt):

  1. It uses tr to replace all white-space by new-line, getting a plain one-per-line word list.
  2. It uses fmt to pack a whole number of words into lines, up to a specified length.
  3. It uses split to make those lines into a series of files named Cairo.seq.0000 and up.

For testability, I used width 60 and lines 30, and my input was three plain-text man pages generated with this:

for cmd in tr fmt split; do man $cmd | col -b > $cmd.txt; done

This is the script:

#! /bin/bash

    for fn in ./*.txt; do
        tr -s '[:space:]' '\n' < "${fn}" |
            fmt -60 |
            split -a 4 -d -l 30 - "./${Base}.seq."

The line width is the "60" in the fmt command. So you might want to make this 100.

The number of lines per output file is the "30" in the split command. You seemed to want this to be 1 line per file. However, you are going to get a lot of small files like that. A 100-byte file still takes a 4096-byte block.

You can see that the number of words is unchanged, but the whitespace is reduced, and the lines are fewer.

paul $  wc *
   29   214  1561 fmt.seq.0000
   61   214  1832 fmt.txt
   30   260  1665 split.seq.0000
   15   101   780 split.seq.0001
   94   361  2892 split.txt
   30   263  1724 tr.seq.0000
   18   126   929 tr.seq.0001
  124   389  3282 tr.txt
  410  1955 14821 total
paul $ 

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