I found two similar tags on this site which are and . But I am little confuse to understand exactly which of them should be used when?

As both deals with Text processing/formatting utilities like: sed, awk, perl, cut, grep, diff, sort etc. why both are exist?

Should one of them be synonyms of another?

  • Input and output
    – Sobrique
    Jun 24, 2015 at 18:10

4 Answers 4


I'm not really sure that we need both tags but there is a difference between and . First of all, yes, is a subset of . However, formatting refers to changing a file's format, not to extracting information from it.

For example, this question is about text formatting. The OP has a file in a particular format and wants the same information but in a different format.

I would use for extracting information from text files (parsing them) and for manipulating the way that data from a text file are displayed. As a rule of thumb, if a subset of the information is to be extracted, use and if only the format, the presentation of the data, is to be changed, use (or both).

Please don't assume that this is site policy. This is just my personal take on these tags, feel free to downvote/disagree.


The way I understand the tag name spontaneously is that it's about applying formatting to text, such as bold, italic, section titles, line and page breaks, etc.

The tag wiki gives a completely different meaning. I understand it as applying to producing text which has to be arranged in a particular way, as opposed to which is about reading text and often, but not always producing modified text.

isn't on my mental radar, I wouldn't have thought of using it before seeing this meta thread. I'm not sure if I'll be remembering it in the future.


Text processing may involve additional filtering or 'rows'/'cells' transposition etc., which are more than just formatting the text differently from the source.

However, you might still be onto something. Since is created much more recently and is more narrow in scope, it may not be too far-fetched to think of it as a synonym to .


The difference between text-processing and text-formatting is that you might process a text into some other format, such as an image, or a page description (as in pdf or ps), while text formatting formats a text to produce another text in a special formatted way.

So roughly I would say, when you process a text the result might be have any format and encoding or even no visual result at all but some kind of system function, while when you format a text the source and destination formats are plain texts basically.

As both deals with Text processing/formatting utilities like: sed, awk, perl, cut, grep, diff, sort etc. why both are exist?

All those tools are text formatting tools, while text processing tools are tex, roff, metapost, gs.

Of course text-formatting tools are often used to format text for further processing.

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