cut - macOS


The cut command in macOS is a text processing tool primarily used to extract sections from each line of input files. It is most effective for slicing out specific columns of a table or specific fields delimited by a common character. The command is commonly used in data extraction tasks and scripts where only certain parts of text lines are needed.


The general syntax for the cut command is as follows:

cut [OPTIONS]... [FILE]...

Here, [OPTIONS] represents possible flags that can alter the behavior of cut, and [FILE]... is one or more filenames or a single dash (-) indicating input taken from standard input.


  • -b, --bytes=[LIST]: Select only these bytes from each line of the files. A LIST specifies a byte, a set of bytes, or a range of bytes.
  • -c, --characters=[LIST]: Similar to -b, but selects characters instead of bytes. Useful when dealing with multi-byte character sets.
  • -d, --delimiter=[DELIM]: Use DELIM instead of TAB as the field delimiter. Useful for parsing CSV files or other tabular data with custom delimiters.
  • -f, --fields=[LIST]: Selects only these fields, delimited by the delimiter character (see the -d option).
  • -n: Do not split multi-byte characters (useful only with -b).
  • -s, --only-delimited: Do not print lines not containing delimiters, which is handy when working with irregular data.

A LIST is a comma-separated list of numbers and/or ranges (e.g., 1-4,6).


  1. Extract the first column from a file:

    cut -f1 -d, file.csv

    This command extracts the first field from each line in file.csv, assuming fields are comma-separated.

  2. Extract multiple fields from a file:

    cut -f1,3,5 -d' ' file.txt

    Extract fields 1, 3, and 5, from a space-delimited file.

  3. Extract a range of characters:

    cut -c1-10 file.txt

    Extracts the first 10 characters from each line of file.txt.

Common Issues

  1. Misaligned fields when using the wrong delimiter: Always ensure the delimiter matches the actual delimiter used in the file. You can use more sophisticated tools like awk if delimiters are inconsistent.

  2. Confusion between bytes and characters: Remember that -b operates on bytes, which can cause unexpected behavior with multi-byte characters unlike -c, which operates on character counts.


cut is commonly used in conjunction with other text manipulation tools. For example:

grep "searchPattern" file.txt | cut -d':' -f1

This pipeline filters lines containing “searchPattern” in file.txt, and cut extracts the first field from these lines, assuming fields are separated by colons.

  • awk: A powerful text-processing language that can also split lines into fields.
  • sed: A stream editor that can perform more complex pattern-based transformations.
  • tr: Translates or deletes characters from input text, which can be useful prior to cutting.

Additional resources can be found in the man pages (man cut) or online at Apple’s developer documentation.