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Chapter 5. Working on a Unix System > Viewing and Editing Files

5.3. Viewing and Editing Files

You're probably accustomed to the idea of using a program to open a file. If your first introduction to computers has been sometime in the last 15 years, you're probably used to simply clicking on a file icon, which is automatically recognized by the right piece of software, which opens the file.

In Unix, commands are designed to operate on files that are sensibly readable and printable as text whenever possible. Thus text files can be opened by a wide variety of commands that allow a great deal of flexibility in file manipulation. The file reading and processing commands have such functions as sorting data based on the value of a particular substring in each line of the file, cutting a particular column out of a file, pasting columns of data together side by side, checking to see what the differences between two files are, and searching for instances of a pattern in a file or group of files. Often, these simple commands are all you need to extract a desired subset of the data in a file and prepare it for analysis.


  

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