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File Manipulation: sort and uniq

File manipulation: sort and uniq
© Wellcome Genome Campus Advanced Courses and Scientific Conferences

What are sort and uniq?

Ordering and manipulating data in Linux-based text files can be carried out using the sort and uniq utilities. The sort command orders a list of items both alphabetically and numerically, whereas the uniq command removes adjacent duplicate lines in a list.

Let’s work through an example together, please play along!

First, using nano editor (or any other text editor that you might prefer) create a text file with the following content (one fruit per line): orange pear apple banana grape satsuma melon pomegranate banana grape. Name it fruit.txt

How to use sort

The sort command accepts input from a text-based file and outputs its results to the screen.

sort fruit.txt

The sort results can also be output into another text file.

sort fruit.txt > sorted_fruit.txt

You can reverse the order of the sort with the -r option.

sort -r fruit.txt

Scrambling the order of lines is also possible with the -R option

sort -R fruit.txt

This can be scrambled even further using the system random number generator

sort -R fruit.txt –random-source=/dev/random

The -f option forces the sort to ignore the case of a letter when ordering lines.

sort -f fruit.txt

The -s option stabilises the sort by outputting identical lines in the same order as they appeared in the original file.

sort -s fruit.txt

Duplicate lines can be removed with the -u option

sort -u fruit.txt

How to use uniq

The uniq command accepts input from a text-based file and removes any repeated lines, only if they are adjacent to each other. That’s why it’s used in conjunction with sort to remove non-adjacent lines.

sort fruit.txt | uniq

Case differences can be ignored when dropping duplicate adjacent lines, using the -i option.

sort fruit.txt | uniq -i

Combining -i with the -c option for uniq, counts the number of times a line occurs in a file.

sort fruit.txt | uniq -ic

Using the -d option with -i inverts the behaviour of uniq and only prints the duplicated lines.

sort fruit.txt | uniq -id

It can be helpful to pipe this output into the input of another uniq command.

sort fruit.txt | uniq -id | uniq -i

For more on sort and uniq visit

Your task

How would you extract only the lines that repeat more than once in the file fruit.txt into a new file named repeated_fruit.txt file?

Post your answers to the comment area below and discuss your answers with the other learners.

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