The version of the column command available via Util Linux is far more comprehensive than the one included in bsdmainutils. It includes extensive options for output formatting. I would really like to use the util linux version on 18.04 but I can't work out how to install it.

The current command is installed by bsdmainutils:

$ dpkg -S "$( which column )"
bsdmainutils: /usr/bin/column

The util-linux package does not seem to include the command:

$ dpkg -L util-linux | grep column | wc -l

My question is how can I install the comprehensive version of this command? Is there a snap somewhere or do I need to build it from source?


There is a bug report on this problem you can subscribe to. The more people that subscribe the greater chances it will be fixed:

The 'column' program included in upstream util-linux (https://git.kernel.org/pub/scm/utils/util-linux/util-linux.git/tree/text-utils/column.c) is newer than the included in the bsdmainutil package (https://anonscm.debian.org/cgit/bsdmainutils/bsdmainutils.git/tree/usr.bin/column/column.c). However, debian/rules from util-linux package states the opposite, and therefore Ubuntu now is using 'column' from bsdmainutils instead of the util-linux one.

  • 1
    Nice finding! Any workaround until it’s fixed? Is it possible to install only this one tool from github.com/karelzak/util-linux? – dessert Dec 4 '18 at 7:07
  • @dessert Thanks. My instinct would be to download the column command source code and recompile it anytime bsdmainutils updates it. – WinEunuuchs2Unix Dec 4 '18 at 11:32
  • Thanks, I found the bug report and the source code after asking the question yesterday. I had a go at trying to compile just column. The file Documentation/howto-build-sys.txt suggests something like ./configure --disable-all-programs --enable-column. I gave up after autotools was complaining about not finding /usr/share/aclocal/pkg.m4 despite it existing. It would be good if someone with more autotools foo could add an answer on how to compile util-linux column from source. – htaccess Dec 4 '18 at 20:31
  • @WinEunuuchs2Unix good suggestion re subscribing to the bug report, I'll find my launchpad login and subscribe. – htaccess Dec 4 '18 at 20:32
  • I note that a Ubuntu developer has marked the bug won't fix on 2019-01-06. The rationale is that it should get fixed in Debian and then will be automatically available in Ubuntu. – htaccess Jan 23 at 1:06

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