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filters out reverse (and half reverse) line feeds so the output is in the correct order with only forward and half forward line feeds, and replaces white-space characters with tabs where possible. This can be useful in processing the output of nroff(1) and
reads from standard input and writes to standard output.
The options are as follows:
  • b Do not output any backspaces, printing only the last character written to each column position.
  • f Forward half line feeds are permitted (``fine'' mode). Normally characters printed on a half line boundary are printed on the following line.
  • p Force unknown control sequences to be passed through unchanged. Normally, will filter out any control sequences from the input other than those recognized and interpreted by itself, which are listed below.
  • x Output multiple spaces instead of tabs.
  • num Buffer at least lines in memory. By default, 128 lines are buffered.
The control sequences for carriage motion that understands and their decimal values are listed in the following table:
  • ESC-7 reverse line feed (escape then 7)
  • ESC-8 half reverse line feed (escape then 8)
  • ESC-9 half forward line feed (escape then 9)
  • backspace moves back one column (8); ignored in the first column
  • return (13)
  • newline forward line feed (10); also does carriage return
  • in shift to normal character set (15)
  • out shift to alternate character set (14)
  • space moves forward one column (32)
  • tab moves forward to next tab stop (9)
  • tab reverse line feed (11)
All unrecognized control characters and escape sequences are discarded.
keeps track of the character set as characters are read and makes sure the character set is correct when they are output.
If the input attempts to back up to the last flushed line, will display a warning message.


expand(1) nroff(1) tbl(1)


The utility conforms to the Single UNIX Specification, Version 2. The option is an extension to the standard.


A command appeared in Version 6 AT&T UNIX.


The col command is part of the util-linux-ng package and is available from ftp://ftp.kernel.org/pub/linux/utils/util-linux-ng/.