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14.1 Format Specification

The format specification recognized with the --output-format option is a subset of that for printf. The format specification has the form %[flags][width][.precision]type; it must begin with ‘%’, and must end with a floating-point type specifier: ‘g’ or ‘G’ to specify the number of significant digits, ‘e’ or ‘E’ for scientific notation, and ‘f’ for fixed-point decimal. The ISO C99 standard added the ‘F’ type for fixed-point decimal and the ‘a’ and ‘A’ types for hexadecimal floating point; these types are allowed with compilers that support them. Type length modifiers (e.g., ‘L’ to indicate a long double) are inapplicable and are not allowed.

The default format for units is ‘%.8g’; for greater precision, you could specify -o %.15g. The ‘g’ and ‘G’ format types use exponential format whenever the exponent would be less than \(-4\), so the value 0.000013 displays as ‘1.3e-005’. These types also use exponential notation when the exponent is greater than or equal to the precision, so with the default format, the value \(5\times 10^7\) displays as ‘50000000’ and the value \(5\times 10^8\) displays as ‘5e+008’. If you prefer fixed-point display, you might specify -o %.8f; however, small numbers will display very few significant digits, and values less than \(5\times 10^{-8}\) will show nothing but zeros.

The format specification may include one or more optional flags: ‘+’, ‘ ’ (space), ‘#’, ‘-’, or ‘0’ (the digit zero). The digit-grouping flag ‘'’ (apostrophe) is allowed with compilers that support it. Flags are followed by an optional value for the minimum field width, and an optional precision specification that begins with a period (e.g., ‘.6’). The field width includes the digits, decimal point, the exponent, thousands separators (with the digit-grouping flag), and the sign if any of these are shown.

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