Splitting a String on a Delimiter in Bash

Splitting a String on a Delimiter in Bash

Bash is a popular command-line shell that is commonly used in Unix-like operating systems, such as Linux and macOS. One common task in Bash is to split a string on a delimiter and extract individual pieces of the string. In this article, we will explain how to split a string on a delimiter in Bash.

What is a Delimiter?

Before we dive into how to split a string on a delimiter in Bash, it's important to understand what a delimiter is and why it is useful.

A delimiter is a special character or sequence of characters that separates pieces of a string. For example, consider the following string:

apple;banana;cherry

In this string, the semicolon (;) character is used as a delimiter to separate the individual pieces of the string (in this case, apple, banana, and cherry).

Delimiters are useful because they allow you to easily extract individual pieces of a string and work with them separately. For example, you might use a delimiter to extract the individual words in a sentence or the items in a list.

Splitting a String on a Delimiter in Bash

Now that you understand what a delimiter is and why it is useful, let's take a look at how to split a string on a delimiter in Bash.

To split a string on a delimiter in Bash, you can use the cut command. The cut command is a versatile tool that can be used to extract specific fields (columns) from a file or string, as well as to split a string on a delimiter.

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To split a string on a delimiter with the cut command, you need to specify the delimiter using the -d option and the string to split using the -f option:

# Split a string on the ";" delimiter
$ echo "apple;banana;cherry" | cut -d ';' -f 1
apple

In this code, we are using the cut command to split the string apple;banana;cherry on the ; delimiter. We are using the -d option to specify the delimiter (in this case, ;), and the -f option to specify which fields (pieces of the string) to extract.

The command is meant to be used to get each element of a column - so if you're cutting from a file, every first column would be returned. The same separator you use to split joins the fields if you supply a list of them to be used, such as -f 1,2,3.

In this example, we've extracted the first element - which is an apple.

Conclusion

In this article, we have explained how to split a string on a delimiter in Bash.

A delimiter is a special character or sequence of characters that separates pieces of a string, and it is useful for extracting individual pieces of the string and working with them separately.

To split a string on a delimiter in Bash, you can use the cut command, which allows you to specify the delimiter using the -d option and the string to split using the -f option.

Last Updated: December 13th, 2022
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