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man pages section 1: User Commands

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Updated: Wednesday, February 9, 2022



fold - filter for folding lines


fold [-b | --bytes] [
-s | --spaces] [-c | --characters
           [-w | --width width
 ] [-width] [--help] [


The fold utility is a filter that folds lines from its input files, breaking the lines to have a maximum of width column positions (or bytes, if the –b option is specified). Lines are broken by the insertion of a NEWLINE character such that each output line (referred to later in this section as a segment) is the maximum width possible that does not exceed the specified number of column positions (or bytes). A line is not broken in the middle of a character. The behavior is undefined if width is less than the number of columns any single character in the input would occupy.

The –b and –c options are mutually exclusive and only one may be specified.

If the CARRIAGE-RETURN, BACKSPACE, or TAB characters are encountered in the input, and the – b option is not specified, they are treated specially:


The current count of line width is decremented by one, although the count never becomes negative. fold does not insert a NEWLINE character immediately before or after any BACKSPACE character.


The current count of line width is set to 0. fold does not insert a NEWLINE character immediately before or after any CARRIAGE-RETURN character.


Each TAB character encountered advances the column position pointer to the next tab stop. Tab stops are at each column position n such that n modulo 8 equals 1.


The following options are supported:

–b, –-bytes

Counts width in bytes rather than column positions. May not be specified with –c option.

–s, –-space

If a segment of a line contains a blank character within the first width column positions (or bytes), breaks the line after the last such blank character meeting the width constraints. If there is no blank character meeting the requirements, the –s option has no effect for that output segment of the input line.

–c, –-characters

Counts width in characters rather than column positions. May not be specified with –b option.

–w width | – -width width | –width

Specifies the maximum line length, in column positions (or bytes if –b is specified, or characters for –c). If width is not a positive decimal number, an error is returned. The default value is 80.


Print usage statement and exit.


The following operand is supported:


A path name of a text file to be folded. If no file operands are specified, the standard input is used.

Environment Variables

See environ(7) for descriptions of the following environment variables that affect the execution of fold: LANG, LC_ALL, LC_CTYPE , LC_MESSAGES, and NLSPATH.

Exit Status

The following exit values are returned:


All input files were processed successfully.


An error occurred.


See attributes(7) for descriptions of the following attributes:

Interface Stability

See Also

cut(1), pr(1), attributes(7), environ(7), standards(7)


fold and cut(1) can be used to create text files out of files with arbitrary line lengths. fold should be used when the contents of long lines need to be kept contiguous. cut should be used when the number of lines (or records) needs to remain constant.

fold is frequently used to send text files to line printers that truncate, rather than fold, lines wider than the printer is able to print (usually 80 or 132 column positions).

fold might not work correctly if underlining is present.