Only Paste Command Linux Cheat Sheet You Will Need

Written By - Rohan Timalsina

Introduction to paste Command

Welcome to a comprehensive guide on the "paste command in Linux," an essential tool that every Linux user should be acquainted with. The paste command is a powerful utility that allows you to merge lines of files horizontally, making it an indispensable asset for text processing and manipulation.

In this tutorial, we will unravel the functionalities of the paste command, diving deep into various aspects that make it remarkable. We'll begin by understanding the basics, exploring its syntax, and delving into the installation process ensuring it is readily available for use on your system.

As we progress, we will unveil the techniques to proficiently combine lines from files, employ custom delimiters, and serialize outputs. We will also spotlight how the "paste command in Linux" seamlessly integrates with other Unix/Linux commands, amplifying its capabilities. Practical examples and common use-cases will embellish our discussion, offering a real-world perspective and making the command’s application more relatable and straightforward.

Stay with us as we navigate through troubleshooting common issues, comparing paste with similar commands, and discussing best practices. This guide promises a well-rounded mastery of the paste command in Linux, ensuring you are well-equipped to harness its full potential in your daily tasks and projects.


Installation of paste Command

Check if the paste command is already installed

paste --version

If paste is installed, this command will output the version of the paste command available on your system.

If it's not installed (which is quite rare as it comes pre-installed on most systems), you can install coreutils package which includes paste

# On Debian-based systems like Ubuntu, you can use the following commands:
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install coreutils

# On macOS, paste comes pre-installed

# On Red Hat-based systems like Fedora and CentOS, you can use the following command:
sudo yum install coreutils

paste usually comes pre-installed as part of the coreutils package in most Unix-like operating systems, including various Linux distributions and macOS. Therefore, the installation step might not be necessary, but the above commands are there just in case you need them.


Basic Syntax of paste Command

The "paste command in Linux" is utilized for merging the lines of one or more files together. Its basic syntax is quite straightforward and simple to understand. Here’s a general structure of how the command looks:

paste [OPTION] [FILE]...
  • OPTION: These are the flags or parameters that alter the way the paste command executes.
  • FILE: The name of the file(s) whose contents you want to merge or concatenate.

Common options and arguments:

-d, --delimiters=LIST: Use characters from LIST instead of TAB as delimiter.

paste -d"," file1 file2

This example uses the comma (,) as a delimiter instead of the default tab character.

-s, --serial: Concatenate all lines of each separate input file in command line order.Example:

paste -s file1

This example serially pastes all lines from file1.


Using paste to Combine Lines of Files

The "paste command in Linux" shines when it comes to combining lines from files, either from a single file or multiple files.

Joining lines from a single file:

You can use paste to merge lines of a single file, which essentially means converting multiple lines into a single line.

paste -s -d"," file1

This command will concatenate all lines in file1, using a comma as a delimiter.

Joining lines from multiple files:

paste command is proficient in combining corresponding lines from multiple files, creating a seamless horizontal merge.

paste file1 file2

In this case, the paste command will horizontally merge lines from file1 and file2, using the default tab delimiter.


Delimiters in paste Command

Delimiters are a pivotal aspect when using the "paste command in Linux" as they dictate how the concatenation of text is managed between lines or files.

Using custom delimiters

Custom delimiters allow for enhanced flexibility by letting you define the character that separates the merged content.

paste -d":" file1 file2

Here, the colon (:) is used as a custom delimiter, separating the contents of file1 and file2 in the output.

Using special characters as delimiters

Special characters, like tab (\t), newline (\n), or any other non-alphanumeric character, can also be used as delimiters.

paste -d"\t" file1 file2

This example illustrates the use of the tab character as a delimiter in the "paste command in Linux," ensuring that the output contents of file1 and file2 are tab-separated.


Serializing Output in paste Command

Serializing output refers to the action of concatenating the lines of a single file serially, making them appear in a sequence on a single line.

Using the -s option

The -s option is instrumental for serializing the output, ensuring all lines from the input file appear sequentially on one line.

paste -s file1

This example of the "paste command in Linux" will serialize all lines from file1, making them appear on a single line in the output, separated by tabs.

Combining -s option with delimiters

The -s option can be paired with custom delimiters for more refined serialization.

paste -s -d"," file1

This command will serialize the contents of file1, using a comma as a delimiter between each original line in the output, demonstrating the versatility of the "paste command in Linux" in text serialization and customization.


Using paste with Different Number of Lines in Files

When dealing with files that possess a varying number of lines, the "paste command in Linux" exhibits robust flexibility. It can handle such discrepancies seamlessly by appending no extra characters where a file has fewer lines.

paste file1 file2

In this scenario, where file1 and file2 have a different number of lines, paste will merge the lines horizontally as long as there are lines in both files. When one file runs out of lines, the command will continue to output lines from the longer file without adding any extra delimiters.


Combining paste with Other Unix/Linux Commands

The "paste command in Linux" can be integrated with various Unix/Linux commands, enhancing its utility and performance. This combination allows for intricate text processing and data manipulation tasks.

1. Using with cut command

paste <(cut -f1 file1) <(cut -f2 file2)

This command uses paste along with cut to merge specific columns from two separate files, enhancing the data extraction and merging capabilities of the "paste command in Linux."

2. Using with sort command

paste file1 file2 | sort

This combination sorts the output after the contents of file1 and file2 have been merged, highlighting the "paste command in Linux" ability to work in a pipeline with other commands for comprehensive text and data processing.

3. Piping with other commands

paste file1 file2 | grep "pattern"

This example utilizes grep after paste, allowing for pattern searching within the merged contents of the files, showcasing the adaptability and effectiveness of the "paste command in Linux" in complex text processing pipelines.


Best Practices and Tips

When utilizing the paste command, it's crucial to follow some best practices and tips to optimize the command’s execution and ensure that you get the desired output effectively and efficiently.

Optimization Techniques

Using Shell Redirection Instead of relying solely on the command-line output, you can redirect the output to a file for further use or analysis.

paste file1 file2 > output_file

Utilizing Process Substitution For commands that generate output suitable as file input to paste, process substitution can be employed to avoid creating temporary files.

paste <(command1) <(command2)

Commonly Recommended Practices

Check File Existence and Readability Always ensure the files you wish to work with exist and are readable to avoid unexpected errors.

[[ -r file1 && -r file2 ]] && paste file1 file2

Using Delimiters Judiciously Choose delimiters that are suitable for your data to ensure that the output is easy to interpret and use.

paste -d"," file1 file2

Regularly Update and Check Man Pages Regularly updating your system and checking the man pages of paste will ensure that you are up-to-date with the latest options and usage practices.

man paste


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How can I use the paste command to merge lines of multiple files?

To merge lines of multiple files using the paste command, you can simply list the files as arguments to the command. For instance, paste file1 file2 will merge the lines of file1 and file2 horizontally, with each line from file1 being followed by the corresponding line from file2, separated by a tab character.

Can the paste command be used to merge lines from a single file?

Yes, the paste command can merge lines from a single file into a single line of output. By using the -s (serialize) option followed by the file name, you can concatenate all lines from a single file. For example, paste -s file1 will output all lines of file1 concatenated into a single line, separated by tabs.

Is it possible to use multiple delimiters with the paste command?

The paste command allows the use of multiple delimiters by specifying them using the -d option followed by the delimiters enclosed in quotes. The delimiters are used in sequence and recycled if necessary. For instance, paste -d",;" file1 file2 will use a comma as the delimiter for the first pair of lines and a semicolon for the next, repeating this pattern for the subsequent lines.

How does the paste command handle files with unequal numbers of lines?

If the files you’re merging using the paste command have an unequal number of lines, the command will continue to output lines from the longer file even after the shorter file(s) have been exhausted. The lines from the longer file will be displayed without additional delimiters in the positions where the shorter file(s) have no more lines.

Can I use the paste command in combination with other Unix/Linux commands?

Absolutely! The paste command can be combined with other commands using pipes (|) and process substitution. This allows you to create powerful command pipelines for complex text processing tasks. For example, using paste <(command1) <(command2) enables you to merge the outputs of two separate commands directly, without needing to save them in files first.



Throughout this tutorial, we delved deeply into the paste command in Linux, exploring its various functionalities and applications. Here are some key takeaways:

  • Basic Syntax: We covered the basic structure and syntax of the paste command, including its common options and arguments.
  • Combining Lines of Files: We discussed how to merge lines from single or multiple files, illustrating the fundamental utility of the paste command.
  • Custom Delimiters: The tutorial explained the usage of custom and special character delimiters, providing flexibility in how text lines are merged.
  • Serialization: We discussed serializing output in the paste command, allowing the concatenation of multiple lines into a single line.
  • Handling Different Number of Lines: The command’s proficiency in handling files with varying line numbers was showcased, emphasizing its adaptability.
  • Integration with Other Commands: The ability to combine paste with other Unix/Linux commands like cut, sort, and grep was highlighted, allowing for complex text processing operations.
  • Best Practices: Essential best practices and optimization techniques were shared to enhance the effective utilization of the paste command.

For a more comprehensive understanding and to explore further nuances of the paste command, refer to the official documentation:


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