csplit - Linux


The csplit command in Linux is used to split a file into sections, determined by context lines. Its primary use is to divide a large file into manageable pieces based on content patterns. This command is especially useful in data processing, where specific sections of a file need to be isolated for further analysis or processing.


The basic syntax of the csplit command is as follows:

  • FILE is the name of the file to split.
  • PATTERN specifies where to split the file. This can be a line number, regex, or an instruction to repeat the split process.


  • -f, --prefix=PREFIX: Specify the prefix of output files (default is ‘xx’).
  • -b, --suffix-format=FORMAT: Define the format for the suffix of output files. The default is %02d.
  • -n, --digits=DIGITS: Set the number of digits in the suffix of file names (default is 2).
  • -k, --keep-files: Do not remove output files on errors.
  • -s, --quiet, --silent: Suppress all messages except for error messages.
  • -z, --elide-empty-files: Remove empty output files.


  1. Splitting a file at a specific line:

    csplit file.txt 10

    This splits file.txt after line 10, producing two files if file.txt has more than 10 lines.

  2. Using a pattern:

    csplit file.txt /pattern/

    This command splits file.txt at the line containing ‘pattern’.

  3. Splitting with multiple patterns and a prefix:

    csplit -f section file.txt 20 /pattern/ {*}

    Split file.txt after line 20, at every occurrence of ‘pattern’ and dynamically name the output files starting with ‘section’.

Common Issues

  • Pattern not found: If the specified pattern isn’t found in the file, csplit exits with an error. Ensure the pattern exists or handle this scenario in scripts.
  • Output file collision: Be cautious with prefixes and suffix formats to avoid overwriting existing files.
  • Handling large files: For extremely large files, watch out for performance implications. It might help to increase the buffer size or manage resources differently.


Combining csplit with other commands can automate and facilitate complex file processing tasks. Here’s an example of using csplit with grep:

# Extract lines containing 'start_section' and the next 20 lines
grep -n 'start_section' file.txt | cut -d: -f1 | xargs -I{} csplit file.txt {} +20
  • split: Divides a file into fixed-size pieces.
  • grep: Searches for patterns in files; useful in conjunction with csplit.
  • awk: Useful for pattern scanning and processing; can perform similar tasks to csplit in different scenarios.

For further reading and advanced usage, consult the official GNU Coreutils documentation: GNU Coreutils.