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How do I specify tab as field separator for sort?

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# 1  
Old 04-26-2005
How do I specify tab as field separator for sort?

I'm trying to use sort on a file with tab-delimited fields. I can't figure out how to tell sort to use the tab character as the field separator. I'm trying this on both an HP Unix system and on OS X (using bash on both).

Things I've tried:
sort -t\t
sort -t"\t"
sort -t\"\t\"

I've tried other things out of desperation, but nothing has worked so far.
I've looked through all the messages on the forum but couldn't find an answer. I found one message where someone was using the third form above, but that didn't work for me.

# 2  
Old 04-26-2005
sort -t `/bin/echo '\t'`
# 3  
Old 04-26-2005
Thanks for the quick reply, but that doesn't seem to work. Here's a sample input file where I've converted the tabs to vertical bars:

a album|c song|2
b album|d song|2
a album|a song|4
a album|b song|1
b album|z song|1
b album|a song|3
a album|f song|3
b album|c song|4

(The real file is an exported playlist from iTunes. This is a simplified test version.) I want to sort by album, then track number. With this file, sort -t\| -k 1,1 -k 3,3n works fine. But with the real file that contains tabs, nothing works. I tried sort -t `/bin/echo '\t'` -k 1,1 -k 3,3n but it sorts by the entire line just like everything else I've tried.
# 4  
Old 04-26-2005
sort -t "`/bin/echo '\t'" -k 1,1 -k 3,3n
# 5  
Old 04-26-2005
Thanks but still no luck. On OS X that still sorts by the entire line. On the HP system, it's rejected as invalid syntax. (I removed the character after the opening double quote since that must be a typo.)
# 6  
Old 04-26-2005
sorry for the typo!

does this sort by the first field?
sort -t "`/bin/echo '\t'`" -k 1,1
# 7  
Old 04-26-2005
Ok, "`/bin/echo '\t'`" did it! Thanks very much for your help and perseverance.

I'm not familiar with the "backwards" single quote. What does that do? (And what do you call it?)

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