I have an external command, say check_this, which would spit out YES or NO for a file piped to it

cat myfile | check_this


Now I want to get all the lines in myfile with YES results. Is there a way to do this? Currently I use a tempfile, save it to another file, then use paste + grep, which is cumbersome and not robust.

  • it outputs yes or no for every line? So in your output we can assume line 1 is yes, line 2 is no, line 3 is yes, and line 4 is no?
    – jesse_b
    Aug 6, 2020 at 14:12
  • yes, each line will produce either YES or NO.
    – user40129
    Aug 6, 2020 at 14:45

4 Answers 4


I'd use awk:

<myfile check_this | awk '
  !check_processed {if ($1 == "YES") yes[FNR]; next}
  FNR in yes' - check_processed=1 myfile

awk records which line numbers of check_this's output start with a YES word in the yes hash table, and then prints the lines of myfile whose number are in that yes hash table.


We can make use of the GNU version of the dc utility to basically implement a grep -f functionality.

dc -e "
$(< myfile check_this | sed -e 's/NO/0/;s/YES/1/' | tac)
[q]sq [p]sp [?z0=qr1=psxz0<?]s?
" < <(< myfile sed -e 's/.*/[&]/')
  • As a first step we load the check_this utility's output, booleanized appropriately (YES=>1, NO=>0), and pushed onto the stack. The next line from the input file is read and pushed on the stack. print it if the 2nd stack element is a 1.

  • Then we clear out the top 2 stack elements. Repeat until eof.


GNU awk aka gawk+paste:

$ < myfile check_this \
   | paste myfile -      \
   | gawk '/YES$/ && NF--';
$ < myfile check_this \
    |  perl -lpe '
      @ARGV && do{
        /YES/ && $h{$.}++;
        eof && close(ARGV);
        print if $h{$.};
  ' - myfile

GNU sed with extended regex mode ON:

$ < myfile check_this |
    sed -nE '
    ' - myfile

store the check_this output in hold and fir every line of myfile determine the leading value for hold is a yes. Then print the myfile line. Clip leading two elements from pattern space and re-store (NOT "restore" mind you) the pattern into hold space.


A variant of @StéphaneChazelas' perfectly good awk-based solution, that is less compact but perhaps easier to read because it does not resort to an external variable (check_processed in his notation), would be:

$ awk 'FNR == NR {if ($1 == "YES") yes[FNR];next} 
       FNR != NR && FNR in yes'   <(check_this <myfile) myfile

Note: @RakeshSharma remarks that the simultaneous use of next (1st line) and of the test FNR != NR (2nd line) is a redundancy. Users of that pattern can remove one or the other with no change in output, as in:

$ awk 'FNR == NR {if ($1 == "YES") yes[FNR];next} 
       FNR in yes'   <(check_this <myfile) myfile
  • The FNR != NR is redundant and can be removed. Or, remove the next from the previous line. Aug 8, 2020 at 15:20
  • @RakeshSharma: You are 100% right. You could even see the simultaneous use of next and the test FNR != NR as an anti-pattern here. It was just meant as a quick illustration of awk's versatility, geared toward people not fully conversant with the idiom, or not comfortable with using external variables declared for the subshell on same cmd line (see StéphaneChazelas' answer)... I will nevertheless edit the answer with a small comment mentioning you for good measure. Good catch.
    – Cbhihe
    Aug 8, 2020 at 15:46
  • Note that the FNR == NR approaches in general don't work properly when the first file is empty which is why I prefer the !flag/flag=1 approach. In this case though, it wouldn't be a problem as if myfile is empty, the output of check_this would also be empty. See Bypass a nawk snippet if the input file is empty Aug 9, 2020 at 8:55

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