I am trying to output the results of my shell script using printf. To keep the results aligned in column, I am using tab as:

printf "%s\t %s\t %s\t %s\t %s\t %s\t %s\n" $i $est $var_m $jk $mst $var_M  $Tes >>tmp

But the problem is, for some cases, the results are bit long, as a output of say,

var_M=`echo "scale=8;(-1/$jk + (e(2*$jk)+1)/(e(2*$jk)-1))"|bc -l `

So, it will be better for me, if I can format print to the column, something like:

printf "%s *goto column 20* %s *go to column 30* " $i $est >>tmp

is this possible?

I have checked this thread and also the man pages, but failed to find it. Is this possible?

NB: I do not have any special reason to stick to printf. so any other suitable command that can do the thing (easily) is also welcome.

EDIT: tried: printf "%-2s %-8s\n" $i $est >>tmp which is not clearly working:

4.0 0.17169E-02
5. 0.17156E-02
10. 0.17129E-02

(The 2nd row/2nd column is not aligned, just like the case of list-formatted output)

  • 2 is not enough for "4.0", try with printf "%-20s %-20s\n" $i $est >>tmp
    – damphat
    Aug 13, 2013 at 9:17
  • You should always quote your shell variable references (e.g., "$i" and "$est") unless you have a good reason not to, and you’re sure you know what you’re doing. Jul 29, 2016 at 4:17

1 Answer 1


Try this:

printf "%-20s %-30s" $i $est >>tmp

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