When we encounter strange, unexplainable problems with text files, hidden characters may be reason. This article describes several possibilities to tackle line-ending and whitespace problems.
Correcting mixed line endings
If a file has mixed line endings, the standard tool flip may help you:
echo -e "unix\nmicro\r\n" > test.txt
#result: test.txt: ASCII text, with CRLF, LF line terminators
A check with file reveals that the file test.txt has mixed line endings. Flip unifies the line endings to Unix (-u) or Windows (-m) standard:
flip -u test.txt
file test.txt # result: test.txt: ASCII text
flip -m test.txt
file test.txt # result: test.txt: ASCII text, with CRLF line terminators
vim can show whitespace characters, if you enable the option list. In command mode, execute the following to show whitespaces like tabs or line endings. Unfortunately, the editor does not differentiate between different types of line endings.
Use :set nolist to return to normal view. With :set ff the program identifies the line ending standard.
If you need to get a detailed picture of the whitespace characters in your document, the octal file viewer od may be helpful, it displays the file as octal values and (interpreted) ASCII characters:
echo -e "item1\titem2\titem3\r\nline2 (unix)\n" > test.txt
od -c test.txt
The results looks as follows:
000000 69 74 65 6d 31 09 69 74 65 6d 32 09 69 74 65 6d
i t e m 1 \t i t e m 2 \t i t e m
000010 33 0d 0a 6c 69 6e 65 32 20 28 75 6e 69 78 29 0a
3 \r \n l i n e 2 ( u n i x ) \n
Using cat -v text.txt, you can see bogus (non-Unix) line endings being marked with a special symbol: ^M
item1 item2 item3^M