join Command in Linux

The join command in UNIX is a command line utility for joining lines of two files on a common field.

Suppose you have two files and there is a need to combine these two files in a way that the output makes even more sense.For example, there could be a file containing names and the other containing ID’s and the requirement is to combine both files in such a way that the names and corresponding ID’s appear in the same line. join command is the tool for it. join command is used to join the two files based on a key field present in both the files. The input file can be separated by white space or any delimiter.
Syntax:

$join [OPTION] FILE1 FILE2
Example : Let us assume there are two files file1.txt and file2.txt and we want to combine the contents of these two files.
// displaying the contents of first file //
$cat file1.txt
1 AAYUSH
2 APAAR
3 HEMANT
4 KARTIK

// displaying contents of second file //
$cat file2.txt
1 101
2 102
3 103
4 104

Now, in order to combine two files the files must have some common field. In this case, we have the numbering 1, 2... as the common field in both the files.

NOTE : When using join command, both the input files should be sorted on the KEY on which we are going to join the files.

//..using join command...//
$join file1.txt file2.txt
1 AAYUSH 101
2 APAAR 102
3 HEMANT 103
4 KARTIK 104

// by default join command takes the 
first column as the key to join as 
in the above case //

So, the output contains the key followed by all the matching columns from the first file file1.txt, followed by all the columns of second file file2.txt.

Now, if we wanted to create a new file with the joined contents, we could use the following command:

$join file1.txt file2.txt > newjoinfile.txt

//..this will direct the output of joined files
into a new file newjoinfile.txt 
containing the same output as the example 
above..//

Options for join command:

1. -a FILENUM : Also, print unpairable lines from file FILENUM, where FILENUM is 1 or 2, corresponding to FILE1 or FILE2.
2. -e EMPTY : Replace missing input fields with EMPTY.
3. -i - -ignore-case : Ignore differences in case when comparing fields.
4. -j FIELD : Equivalent to "-1 FIELD -2 FIELD".
5. -o FORMAT : Obey FORMAT while constructing output line.
6. -t CHAR : Use CHAR as input and output field separator.
7. -v FILENUM : Like -a FILENUM, but suppress joined output lines.
8. -1 FIELD : Join on this FIELD of file 1.
9. -2 FIELD : Join on this FIELD of file 2.
10. - -check-order : Check that the input is correctly sorted, even if all input lines are pairable.
11. - -nocheck-order : Do not check that the input is correctly sorted.
12. - -help : Display a help message and exit.
13. - -version : Display version information and exit.

Using join with options
1. using -a FILENUM option : Now, sometimes it is possible that one of the files contain extra fields so what join command does in that case is that by default, it only prints pairable lines. For example, even if file file1.txt contains an extra field provided that the contents of file2.txt are same then the output produced by join command would be same:

//displaying the contents of file1.txt//
$cat file1.txt
1 AAYUSH
2 APAAR
3 HEMANT
4 KARTIK
5 DEEPAK

//displaying contents of file2.txt//
$cat file2.txt
1 101
2 102
3 103
4 104

//using join command//
$join file1.txt file2.txt
1 AAYUSH 101
2 APAAR 102
3 HEMANT 103
4 KARTIK 104

// although file1.txt has extra field the 
output is not affected cause the 5 column in 
file1.txt was unpairable with any in file2.txt//

What if such unpairable lines are important and must be visible after joining the files. In such cases we can use -a option with join command which will help in displaying such unpairable lines. This option requires the user to pass a file number so that the tool knows which file you are talking about.

//using join with -a option//

//1 is used with -a to display the contents of
first file passed//

$join file1.txt file2.txt -a 1
1 AAYUSH 101
2 APAAR 102
3 HEMANT 103
4 KARTIK 104
5 DEEPAK

//5 column of first file is 
also displayed with help of -a option
although it is unpairable//

2. using -v option : Now, in case you only want to print unpairable lines i.e suppress the paired lines in output then -v option is used with join command.
This option works exactly the way -a works(in terms of 1 used with -v in example below).

//using -v option with join//

$join file1.txt file2.txt -v 1
5 DEEPAK 

//the output only prints unpairable lines found
in first file passed//

3. using -1, -2 and -j option : As we already know that join combines lines of files on a common field, which is first field by default.However, it is not necessary that the common key in the both files always be the first column.join command provides options if the common key is other than the first column.
Now, if you want the second field of either file or both the files to be the common field for join, you can do this by using the -1 and -2 command line options. The -1 and -2 here represents he first and second file and these options requires a numeric argument that refers to the joining field for the corresponding file. This will be easily understandable with the example below:

//displaying contents of first file//
$cat file1.txt
AAYUSH 1
APAAR 2
HEMANT 3
KARTIK 4

//displaying contents of second file//
$cat file2.txt
 101 1
 102 2
 103 3
 104 4

//now using join command //

$join -1 2 -2 2 file1.txt file2.txt
1 AAYUSH 101
2 APAAR 102
3 HEMANT 103
4 KARTIK 104

//here -1 2 refers to the use of 2 column of
first file as the common field and -2 2
refers to the use of 2 column of second
file as the common field for joining//

So, this is how we can use different columns other than the first as the common field for joining.
In case, we have the position of common field same in both the files(other than first) then we can simply replace the part -1[field] -2[field] in the command with -j[field]. So, in the above case the command could be:

//using -j option with join//

$join -j2 file1.txt file2.txt
1 AAYUSH 101
2 APAAR 102
3 HEMANT 103
4 KARTIK 104
4. using -i option : Now, other thing about join command is that by default, it is case sensitive. For example, consider the following examples:
//displaying contents of file1.txt//
$cat file1.txt
A AAYUSH
B APAAR
C HEMANT
D KARTIK

//displaying contents of file2.txt//
$cat file2.txt
a 101
b 102
c 103
d 104

Now, if you try joining these two files, using the default (first) common field, nothing will happen. That's because the case of field elements in both files is different. To make join ignore this case issue, use the -i command line option.

//using -i option with join//
$join -i file1.txt file2.txt
A AAYUSH 101
B APAAR 102
C HEMANT 103
D KARTIK 104

5. using - -nocheck-order option : By default, the join command checks whether or not the supplied input is sorted, and reports if not. In order to remove this error/warning then we have to use - -nocheck-order command like:

//syntax of join with --nocheck-order option//

$join --nocheck-order file1 file2

6. using -t option : Most of the times, files contain some delimiter to separate the columns. Let us update the files with comma delimiter.

$cat file1.txt
1, AAYUSH
2, APAAR
3, HEMANT
4, KARTIK
5, DEEPAK

//displaying contents of file2.txt//
$cat file2.txt
1, 101
2, 102
3, 103
4, 104

Now, -t option is the one we use to specify the delimiterin such cases.
Since comma is the delimiter we will specify it along with -t.

//using join with -t option//

$join -t, file1.txt file2.txt
1, AAYUSH, 101
2, APAAR, 102
3, HEMANT, 103
4, KARTIK, 104


My Personal Notes arrow_drop_up

Check out this Author's contributed articles.

If you like GeeksforGeeks and would like to contribute, you can also write an article using contribute.geeksforgeeks.org or mail your article to contribute@geeksforgeeks.org. See your article appearing on the GeeksforGeeks main page and help other Geeks.

Please Improve this article if you find anything incorrect by clicking on the "Improve Article" button below.