The printf built-in prints formatted values.

Syntax

  • printf format [value…]

Description

The printf built-in formats values according to format and prints them to the standard output. Unlike the echo built-in, the printf built-in does not print a newline automatically.

The formatting process is very similar to that of the printf function in the C programming language. You can use conversion specifications (which start with %) and escape sequences (which start with \) in format. Any other characters that are not part of a conversion specification or escape sequence are printed literally.

Conversion specifications

A conversion specification starts with a percent sign (%).

A conversion specification except %% consumes a value, which is formatted according to the specification and printed. Each conversion specification consumes one value in the order of appearance. If there are more values than conversion specifications, the entire format is re-processed until all the values are consumed. If a value to be consumed is missing, it is assumed to be an empty string (if the specification requires a string) or zero (if a number). If no values are given, format is processed just once.

Available conversion specifications are:

%d
%i

prints a signed integer in decimal

%u

prints an unsigned integer in decimal

%o

prints an unsigned integer in octal

%x

prints an unsigned integer in lowercase hexadecimal

%X

prints an unsigned integer in uppercase hexadecimal

%f

prints a floating-point number in lowercase

%F

prints a floating-point number in uppercase

%e

prints a floating-point number with exponent in lowercase

%E

prints a floating-point number with exponent in uppercase

%g

the same as %f or %e, automatically selected

%G

the same as %F or %E, automatically selected

%c

prints the first character of string

%s

prints a string

%b

prints a string (recognizing escape sequences like the echo built-in)

%%

prints a percent sign (%)

For %g and %G, the specification that is actually used is %f or %F if the exponent part is between -5 and the precision (exclusive); %e or %E otherwise.

In a conversion specification except %%, the leading percent sign may be followed by flags, field width, and/or precision in this order.

Flags

The flags are a sequence of any number of the following characters:

Minus sign (-)

With this flag, spaces are appended to the formatted value to fill up to the field width. Otherwise, spaces are prepended.

Plus sign (+)

A plus or minus sign is always prepended to a number.

Space ( )

A space is prepended to a formatted number if it has no plus or minus sign.

Hash sign (#)

The value is formatted in an alternative form: For %o, the printed octal integer has at least one leading zero. For %x and %X, a non-zero integer is formatted with 0x and 0X prefixes, respectively. For %e, %E, %f, %F, %g, and %G, a decimal mark (a.k.a. radix character) is always printed even if the value is an exact integer. For %g and %G, the printed number has at least one digit in the fractional part.

Zero (0)

Zeros are prepended to a formatted number to fill up to the field width. This flag is ignored if the minus flag is specified or if the conversion specification is %d, %i, %u, %o, %x, or %X with a precision.

Field width

A field width is specified as a decimal integer that has no leading zeros.

A field width defines a minimum byte count of a formatted value. If the formatted value does not reach the minimum byte count, so many spaces are prepended that the printed value has the specified byte count.

Precision

A precision is specified as a period (.) followed by a decimal integer. If the integer is omitted after the period, the precision is assumed to be zero.

For conversion specifications %d, %i, %u, %o, %x, and %X, a precision defines a minimum digit count. If the formatted integer does not reach the minimum digit count, so many zeros are prepended that the printed integer has the specified number of digits. The default precision is one for these conversion specifications.

For conversion specifications %e, %E, %f, and %F, a precision defines the number of digits after the decimal mark. The default precision is six for these conversion specifications.

For conversion specifications %g, and %G, a precision defines a maximum number of significant digits in the printed value. The default precision is six for these conversion specifications.

For conversion specifications %s, and %b, a precision defines a maximum byte count of the printed string. The default precision is infinity for these conversion specifications.

Examples

In the conversion specification %08.3f, the zero flag is specified, the field width is 8, and the precision is 3. If this specification is applied to value 12.34, the output will be 0012.340.

Escape sequences

The following escape sequences are recognized in format:

\a

Bell character (ASCII code: 7)

\b

Backspace (ASCII code: 8)

\f

Form feed character (ASCII code: 12)

\n

Newline character (ASCII code: 10)

\r

Carriage return character (ASCII code: 13)

\t

Horizontal tab character (ASCII code: 9)

\v

Vertical tab character (ASCII code: 11)

\\

Backslash

\"

Double quotation

\'

Single quotation (apostrophe)

\xxx

Character whose code is xxx, where xxx is an octal number of at most three digits.

Operands

format

A string that defines how values should be formatted.

values

Values that are formatted according to format.

A value is either a number or a string.

When a numeric value is required, value can be a single or double quotation followed by a character, instead of a normal number. For example, the command printf '%d' '"3' will print 51 on a typical environment where character 3 has character code 51.

Exit status

The exit status of the printf built-in is zero unless there is any error.

Notes

The POSIX standard does not precisely define how multibyte characters should be handled by the built-in. When you use the %s conversion specification with precision or the %c conversion specification, you may obtain unexpected results if the formatted value contains a character that is represented by more than one byte. Yash never prints only part of the bytes that represent a single multibyte character because all multibyte characters are converted to wide characters when processed in the shell.