One of the most useful little tools for information parsing that I’ve used has to be awk. Specifically, awk will allow you to pipe text through it and use the printf() function to format text as you require it to be formatted. It also has a basic scripting language that lends further functionality, making it an ubiquitous tool in the POSIX arsenal. Need to format a list of US States for a Maruku table? Not a problem. Copy / Paste it into a text file and pipe it through this:

awk -F\t ' printf( "%4s | %-20s | %4s", $1, $2, $3) '

I’ll break that line down for you.

-F\t tells awk to separate columns by [tab].
printf( begins the print formatting function.
%4s denotes a string padded with four spaces.
| makes Maruku interpret a table column.
%-20s denotes a left-align string padded up to 20 spaces.
$1, $2, $3 tells printf() to use the first, second, and third columns.

It’s really pretty easy. The information goes through stdin() and exits stdout() as per usual, unless you specify otherwise. I highly recommend reading more about awk, as you’ll definitely find a use for it once you do.

Ratatat / Ratatat - Cherry