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A list of command line tools for manipulating structured text data
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Makefile SQL-based: Generate detailed cmp table from CSV Apr 10, 2018 INI: move to config files section as subsection Sep 22, 2018
sql-based.csv SQL-based: Add AlaSQL CLI Apr 10, 2018

Structured text tools

The following is a list of text-based file formats and command line tools for manipulating each.



Delimiter-separated values, including CSV, TSV, etc.


Awk is a POSIX-standard command line tool and programming language for processing DSV data. If you use Linux, macOS or a BSD, you almost certainly have it installed. See below for Windows.

POSIX commands

Name Description
comm Select lines common to two sorted files or those contained in only one of them. (Manual: man 1 comm on your system, GNU, FreeBSD.)
cut Select portions of each line in one or several files. Can work with delimiter-separated fields. (Manual: man 1 cut, GNU, FreeBSD.)
grep Select lines from one or several files. (Manual: man 1 grep, GNU, FreeBSD.)
join Join the lines from two files on a common field. (Manual: man 1 join, GNU, FreeBSD.)
paste Combine several consecutive lines in a text file into one. (Manual: man 1 paste, GNU, FreeBSD.)
sort Sort lines by key fields. (Manual: man 1 sort, GNU, FreeBSD.)
uniq Find or remove repeated lines. (Manual: man 1 uniq, GNU, FreeBSD.)

Other tools

Name and link Description
csv2md Convert CSV to Markdown tables.
csv2html Convert CSV to HTML tables.
csvfaker Generate CSV files with fake data. Supports different types of fake data in different locales: names, cities, jobs, email addresses, and others.
csvfix A multitool. Compare, filter, normalize, split, and validate CSV files. Reorder, remove, split, and merge fields. Convert data between fixed-width, multi-line, XML, and DSV format. Generate SQL statements. Documentation.
csvquote Transform CSV to and from a format processable with regular POSIX tools.
csvtk Search, sample, cut, join, transpose, and sort CSV/TSV files. Rename columns. Replace fields and generate new fiends from existing fields. Plot data as vector or raster histograms and box, line, and scatter plots. Convert CSV to Markdown. Convert XLSX to CSV. Split XLSX sheets.
GNU datamash Perform statistical operations on text input.
jp (sgreben) Plot data. See the JSON section.
Miller sed, awk, cut, join and sort for name-indexed data such as CSV and tabular JSON.
pawk Process text with Awk-like patterns, but Python code.
rows A Python library with a CLI. Convert between a number of file formats for tabular data: CSV, XLS, XLSX, ODS, and others. Query the data (via SQLite). Combine tables. Generate schemas.
tab A non-Turing-complete statically typed programming language for data processing. An alternative to Awk.
eBay's TSV utilities Filtering, statistics, sampling, joins and other operations on TSV files. High performance, especially good for large datasets. Written in D.
tv View delimited files in the terminal.
VisiData Explore interactively data in TSV, CSV, XLS, XLSX, HDF5, JSON, and other formats. Introduction.
xsv Index, slice, analyze, split, and join CSV files.

SQL-based tools

See the Grand Comparison Table of SQL-based Tools. It covers

  • AlaSQL CLI
  • csvsql
  • fsql
  • q
  • rows
  • Sqawk (dbohdan)
  • sqawk (tjunier)
  • Squawk
  • termsql
  • trdsql
  • textql


Name and link Description
xml-to-json-fast Convert XML to JSON. Can handle very large XML files.
html-xml-utils A number of simple utilities (like hxcopy, hxpipe, hxunent, hxselect) for manipulating HTML and XML files from W3C. Written in C, quite old-fashioned, but still relevant and maintained.
pup Query HTML pages with CSS selectors. Static binaries available for releases. Inspired by jq.
Saxon Query XML and HTML data with XPath. Documentation.
Temme Query HTML with CSS-like selectors to extract JSON. Temme extends CSS selectors with value capture patterns.
tidy-html5 Validate, fix, and reformat HTML(5), XHTML, and XML documents. Convert HTML to XHTML.
tq Query HTML with CSS selectors.
Xidel Query or modify XML and HTML pages with XPath, XQuery 3, and CSS selectors.
xml2 Convert XML and HTML to and from flat, greppable lists of "path=value" statements. Source code mirror.
XMLLint Query (including XSLT), validate and reformat XML documents.
XMLStarlet Query, modify, and validate XML documents.
xq jq wrapper for XML documents.
xsltproc Transform XML documents using XSLT and EXSLT.

See also: Grep and Sed Equivalent for XML Command Line Processing on StackOverflow.


Name and link Description
fx Run arbitrary JavaScript on JSON input. Standalone binaries available.
gron Convert JSON to and from flat, greppable lists of "path=value" statements.
jid Explore JSON interactively with filtering queries like jq.
jj Query and modify values in JSON or JSON lines with a key path.
jl Query and manipulate JSON using a tiny functional language.
jo Create JSON objects from the shell.
jp (jmespath) JMESPath
jp (sgreben) Plot JSON and CSV data in the terminal. Supports different kinds of plots: bar charts, line charts, scatter plots, histograms, and heatmaps.
jplot Plot real-time JSON data in the terminal (works with terminals supporting graphic rendering).
jq Create and manipulate JSON with a functional (as in "functional programming") DSL. Can convert JSON to other formats.
jshon Create and manipulate JSON using getopt-style command-line options.
json2 Convert JSON to and from flat, greppable lists of "path=value" statements. Modeled after xml2.
jsonaxe Create and manipulate JSON with a Python-based DSL. Inspired by jq.
json Run arbitrary JavaScript on JSON input.
json-table Convert nested JSON into CSV or TSV for processing in the shell.
json.tool (Python 3 docs) Validate and pretty-print JSON. This module is part of the standard library of Python 2/3 and is likely to be available wherever Python is installed.
jsonwatch Track changes in JSON data from the command line. Works like watch -d.
lobar Explore JSON interactively or process it in batch with a wrapper for lodash.chain(). An alternative to jq with a JavaScript syntax.
quicktype Infer the underlying model of the JSON and output as types for various programming languages or JSON Schema. CLI and Web UI.
ramda-cli Manipulate JSON with the Ramda functional library, and either LiveScript or JavaScript syntax.
rq Create and manipulate JSON with a DSL inspired by Rust, C and JavaScript. Similar to jq. Supports JSON, YAML and TOML as well as binary formats like Apache Avro and MessagePack.
validjson Validate or pretty-print JSON.
VisiData Explore data interactively data. See the DSV/Other tools section.


With a format converter like Remarshal (below) you can use JSON tools to process YAML and TOML, but make sure you do not lose data in the conversion.

Name and link Description
Remarshal Convert between YAML, TOML, and JSON. Validate or pretty-print each of the three formats.
rq See the JSON section.
shyaml Query YAML. Can output null-terminated strings for use in shell scripts.
validtoml Validate TOML.
validyaml Validate or pretty-print YAML.
yaml-tools A set of CLI tools to manipulate YAML files (merge, delete, etc...) with comment preservation, based on ruamel.yaml.
yq (kislyuk) jq wrapper for YAML.
yq (mikefarah) Query, modify, and merge YAML. Convert to and from JSON.

Log files

Name and link Description
Squawk Query Apache and Nginx log files. See the SQL-based tool comparison.
lnav Query and watch log files. Has batch and interactive mode. Supported formats include the Common Log Format, CUPS page_log, syslog, strace, and generic timestamped messages. Can perform SQL queries.

Configuration files


Name and link Description
hosts Add and remove entires in /etc/hosts. Change a hostname's IP address. Idempotent. Preserves arbitrary comments. Can be used as a Tcl library.
hostess Add and remove entires in /etc/hosts. Disable (comment out) and enable (uncomment) entires. Check if a hostname exists. Reformat the hosts file. Convert the entries to JSON. Idempotent. Removes arbitrary comments.


Name and link Platform License Description
confget Linux, FreeBSD Two-clause BSD Retrieve properties and sections as shell script commands to set the corresponding variables. Retrieve properties' values as plain text. Check for existence of properties. List sections. Find values that match a pattern. Read-only.
crudini Any with Python 2.x GNU GPLv2 Retrieve properties and sections as INI fragments or shell script commands to set the corresponding variables. Retrieve properties' values as plain text. Set properties. Remove properties and sections. Create empty sections. Merge INI files. Changes files in place.
IniFile (DOS version) Windows (x86, x86-64), MS-DOS Closed-source freeware Retrieve properties and sections as batch file commands to set the corresponding variables. Set properties. Remove properties and sections. Changes files in place.
initool Linux, FreeBSD, Windows MIT Retrieve properties and sections as INI fragments. Retrieve properties' values as plain text. Set properties. Check for existence of properties and sections. Remove properties and sections. Outputs the updated INI file.

Multiple formats

Name and link Description
Augeas Query and modify a number of file formats. Not all of the formats are equally well supported by Augeas and for some only a limited subset of all valid files can be parsed.
Elektra Query and modify configuration files. Shares Augeas' limitations when it comes to application-specific configuration files (it uses the same lenses), but has better support for generic formats such as JSON and INI.

Bonus round: CLIs for single-file databases

Name and link Description File format
Firebird Firebird is a FOSS database that can be used from a single file, like SQLite. "isql is a program that allows the user to issue arbitrary SQL commands". Binary
GNU Recutils "[A] set of tools and libraries to access human-editable, plain text databases called recfiles." Text-based, roughly "key: value"
SDB "[A] simple string key/value database based on djb's cdb disk storage and supports JSON and arrays introspection." Binary
sqlite3(1) "[A] simple command-line utility [...] that allows the user to manually enter and execute SQL statements against an SQLite database." Binary


The contents of this document is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. By contributing you agree to release your contribution under this license.


csv2html, hosts, Sqawk, jsonwatch, Remarshal and initool are developed by the curator of this document.

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