Skip header with bash sort

Recently needed to sort output from a unix command but wanted to leave the 3 line header intact. Seems like a much more difficult thing to do than it should be, but was finally able to come up with a command that worked. The output from the command I was running had 3 header lines I wanted to leave intact and used fixed width, so this command worked:

... | (for i in $(seq 3); do read -r; printf "%s\n" "$REPLY"; done; sort -rk1.47,1.66)

To explain what this is doing – first, I’m piping the output of the command into a sub-command which allows me to perform multiple functions on it. The for loop is needed because the read command will read a single line from stdin. Since I needed the first 3 lines excluded, I used the for loop (change the $(seq 3) to any number for your output). Inside the for loop, I’m using printf which effectively just prints the line that was read. Lastly, we’re running sort on the remaining data. The data output was fixed width, so I’m using the character position in F[.C] notation (see sort –help or the sort man page for more info). The -r flag for sort is sorting that column in descending order.¬†Several possible solutions involved using head & tail commands, but I couldn’t find the proper syntax because my source was output from a stdin instead of a file and the result was dropping a significant number of rows from the output. If my source was in a file, I could have done the same thing with:

head -n 3 && tail -n +4  | sort -rk1.47,1.66