comm: Compare two sorted files line by line
comm writes to standard output lines that are common, and lines
that are unique, to two input files; a file name of ‘-’ means
standard input. Synopsis:
comm [option]… file1 file2
comm can be used, the input files must be sorted using the
collating sequence specified by the
If an input file ends in a non-newline
character, a newline is silently appended. The
sort command with
no options always outputs a file that is suitable input to
With no options,
comm produces three-column output. Column one
contains lines unique to file1, column two contains lines unique
to file2, and column three contains lines common to both files.
Columns are separated by a single TAB character.
The options -1, -2, and -3 suppress printing of the corresponding columns (and separators). Also see Common options.
Unlike some other comparison utilities,
comm has an exit
status that does not depend on the result of the comparison.
Upon normal completion
comm produces an exit code of zero.
If there is an error it exits with nonzero status.
If the --check-order option is given, unsorted inputs will
cause a fatal error message. If the option --nocheck-order
is given, unsorted inputs will never cause an error message. If neither
of these options is given, wrongly sorted inputs are diagnosed
only if an input file is found to contain unpairable
If an input file is diagnosed as being unsorted, the
command will exit with a nonzero status (and the output should not be used).
comm to process wrongly sorted input files
containing unpairable lines by specifying --nocheck-order is
not guaranteed to produce any particular output. The output will
probably not correspond with whatever you hoped it would be.
Fail with an error message if either input file is wrongly ordered.
Do not check that both input files are in sorted order.
Other options are:
Print str between adjacent output columns, rather than the default of a single TAB character.
The delimiter str may not be empty.
Output a summary at the end.
Similar to the regular output, column one contains the total number of lines unique to file1, column two contains the total number of lines unique to file2, and column three contains the total number of lines common to both files, followed by the word ‘total’ in the additional column four.
In the following example,
comm omits the regular output
(-123), thus just printing the summary:
$ printf '%s\n' a b c d e > file1 $ printf '%s\n' b c d e f g > file2 $ comm --total -123 file1 file2 1 2 4 total
This option is a GNU extension. Portable scripts should use
get the totals, e.g. for the above example files:
$ comm -23 file1 file2 | wc -l # number of lines only in file1 1 $ comm -13 file1 file2 | wc -l # number of lines only in file2 2 $ comm -12 file1 file2 | wc -l # number of lines common to both files 4
Delimit items with a zero byte rather than a newline (ASCII LF). I.e., treat input as items separated by ASCII NUL and terminate output items with ASCII NUL. This option can be useful in conjunction with ‘perl -0’ or ‘find -print0’ and ‘xargs -0’ which do the same in order to reliably handle arbitrary file names (even those containing blanks or other special characters).