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Operating on characters

This commands operate on individual characters.

tr: Translate, squeeze, and/or delete characters

Synopsis:

tr [option]... set1 [set2]

tr copies standard input to standard output, performing one of the following operations:

  • translate, and optionally squeeze repeated characters in the result,
  • squeeze repeated characters,
  • delete characters,
  • delete characters, then squeeze repeated characters from the result.

The set1 and (if given) set2 arguments define ordered sets of characters, referred to below as set1 and set2. These sets are the characters of the input that tr operates on. The --complement (-c) option replaces set1 with its complement (all of the characters that are not in set1).

Specifying sets of characters

The format of the set1 and set2 arguments resembles the format of regular expressions; however, they are not regular expressions, only lists of characters. Most characters simply represent themselves in these strings, but the strings can contain the shorthands listed below, for convenience. Some of them can be used only in set1 or set2, as noted below.

Backslash escapes.

A backslash followed by a character not listed below causes an error message.

\a Control-G, \b Control-H, \f Control-L, \n Control-J, \r Control-M, \t Control-I, \v Control-K, \ooo The character with the value given by ooo, which is 1 to 3 octal digits, \\ A backslash.

Ranges.

The notation m-n expands to all of the characters from m through n, in ascending order. m should collate before n; if it doesn't, an error results. As an example, 0-9 is the same as 0123456789. Although GNU tr does not support the System V syntax that uses square brackets to enclose ranges, translations specified in that format will still work as long as the brackets in string1 correspond to identical brackets in string2.

Repeated characters.

The notation [c*n] in set2 expands to n copies of character c. Thus, [y*6] is the same as yyyyyy. The notation [c*] in string2 expands to as many copies of c as are needed to make set2 as long as set1. If n begins with 0, it is interpreted in octal, otherwise in decimal.

Character classes.

The notation [:class:] expands to all of the characters in the (predefined) class class. The characters expand in no particular order, except for the upper and lower classes, which expand in ascending order. When the --delete (-d) and --squeeze-repeats (-s) options are both given, any character class can be used in set2. Otherwise, only the character classes lower and upper are accepted in set2, and then only if the corresponding character class (upper and lower, respectively) is specified in the same relative position in set1. Doing this specifies case conversion. The class names are given below; an error results when an invalid class name is given.

alnum alnum Letters and digits. alpha alpha Letters. blank blank Horizontal whitespace. cntrl cntrl Control characters. digit digit Digits. graph graph Printable characters, not including space. lower lower Lowercase letters. print print Printable characters, including space. punct punct Punctuation characters. space space Horizontal or vertical whitespace. upper upper Uppercase letters. xdigit xdigit Hexadecimal digits.

Equivalence classes.

The syntax [=c=] expands to all of the characters that are equivalent to c, in no particular order. Equivalence classes are a relatively recent invention intended to support non-English alphabets. But there seems to be no standard way to define them or determine their contents. Therefore, they are not fully implemented in GNU tr; each character's equivalence class consists only of that character, which is of no particular use.

Translating

tr performs translation when set1 and set2 are both given and the --delete (-d) option is not given. tr translates each character of its input that is in set1 to the corresponding character in set2. Characters not in set1 are passed through unchanged. When a character appears more than once in set1 and the corresponding characters in set2 are not all the same, only the final one is used. For example, these two commands are equivalent:

tr aaa xyz
tr a z

A common use of tr is to convert lowercase characters to uppercase. This can be done in many ways. Here are three of them:

tr abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
tr a-z A-Z
tr '[:lower:]' '[:upper:]'

When tr is performing translation, set1 and set2 typically have the same length. If set1 is shorter than set2, the extra characters at the end of set2 are ignored.

On the other hand, making set1 longer than set2 is not portable; POSIX.2 says that the result is undefined. In this situation, BSD tr pads set2 to the length of set1 by repeating the last character of set2 as many times as necessary. System V tr truncates set1 to the length of set2.

By default, GNU tr handles this case like BSD tr. When the --truncate-set1 (-t) option is given, GNU tr handles this case like the System V tr instead. This option is ignored for operations other than translation.

Acting like System V tr in this case breaks the relatively common BSD idiom:

tr -cs A-Za-z0-9 '\012'

because it converts only zero bytes (the first element in the complement of set1), rather than all non-alphanumerics, to newlines.

Squeezing repeats and deleting

When given just the --delete (-d) option, tr removes any input characters that are in set1.

When given just the --squeeze-repeats (-s) option, tr replaces each input sequence of a repeated character that is in set1 with a single occurrence of that character.

When given both --delete and --squeeze-repeats, tr first performs any deletions using set1, then squeezes repeats from any remaining characters using set2.

The --squeeze-repeats option may also be used when translating, in which case tr first performs translation, then squeezes repeats from any remaining characters using set2.

Here are some examples to illustrate various combinations of options:

  •  
  • Remove all zero bytes:
    tr -d '\000'
    
  • Put all words on lines by themselves. This converts all non-alphanumeric characters to newlines, then squeezes each string of repeated newlines into a single newline:
    tr -cs '[a-zA-Z0-9]' '[\n*]'
    
  • Convert each sequence of repeated newlines to a single newline:
    tr -s '\n'
    

Warning messages

Setting the environment variable POSIXLY_CORRECT turns off the following warning and error messages, for strict compliance with POSIX.2. Otherwise, the following diagnostics are issued:

  1.  
  2. When the --delete option is given but --squeeze-repeats is not, and set2 is given, GNU tr by default prints a usage message and exits, because set2 would not be used. The POSIX specification says that set2 must be ignored in this case. Silently ignoring arguments is a bad idea.
  3. When an ambiguous octal escape is given. For example, \400 is actually \40 followed by the digit 0, because the value 400 octal does not fit into a single byte.

GNU tr does not provide complete BSD or System V compatibility. For example, it is impossible to disable interpretation of the POSIX constructs [:alpha:], [=c=], and [c*10]. Also, GNU tr does not delete zero bytes automatically, unlike traditional Unix versions, which provide no way to preserve zero bytes.

expand: Convert tabs to spaces

expand writes the contents of each given file, or standard input if none are given or for a file of -, to standard output, with tab characters converted to the appropriate number of spaces. Synopsis:

expand [option]... [file]...

By default, expand converts all tabs to spaces. It preserves backspace characters in the output; they decrement the column count for tab calculations. The default action is equivalent to -8 (set tabs every 8 columns).

The program accepts the following options. Also see section Common options.

-tab1[,tab2]... -t tab1[,tab2]... --tabs=tab1[,tab2]... -tab -t --tabs If only one tab stop is given, set the tabs tab1 spaces apart (default is 8). Otherwise, set the tabs at columns tab1, tab2, ... (numbered from 0), and replace any tabs beyond the last tabstop given with single spaces. If the tabstops are specified with the -t or --tabs option, they can be separated by blanks as well as by commas.

-i --initial -i --initial Only convert initial tabs (those that precede all non-space or non-tab characters) on each line to spaces.

unexpand: Convert spaces to tabs

unexpand writes the contents of each given file, or standard input if none are given or for a file of -, to standard output, with strings of two or more space or tab characters converted to as many tabs as possible followed by as many spaces as are needed. Synopsis:

unexpand [option]... [file]...

By default, unexpand converts only initial spaces and tabs (those that precede all non space or tab characters) on each line. It preserves backspace characters in the output; they decrement the column count for tab calculations. By default, tabs are set at every 8th column.

The program accepts the following options. Also see section Common options.

-tab1[,tab2]... -t tab1[,tab2]... --tabs=tab1[,tab2]... -tab -t --tabs If only one tab stop is given, set the tabs tab1 spaces apart instead of the default 8. Otherwise, set the tabs at columns tab1, tab2, ... (numbered from 0), and leave spaces and tabs beyond the tabstops given unchanged. If the tabstops are specified with the -t or --tabs option, they can be separated by blanks as well as by commas. This option implies the -a option.

-a --all -a --all Convert all strings of two or more spaces or tabs, not just initial ones, to tabs.


 

 

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