FOR /F – Windows CMD Command

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Loop command: against a set of files – conditionally perform a command against each item.

FOR /F processing of a text file consists of reading the file, one line of text at a time and then breaking the line up into individual items of data called ‘tokens’. The DO command is then executed with the parameter(s) set to the token(s) found.

By default, /F breaks up the line at each blank space ” “, and any blank lines are skipped, this default parsing behavior can be changed by applying one or more of the “options” parameters. The option(s) must be contained within “a pair of quotes”

Within a FOR loop the visibility of variables is affected by SETLOCAL EnableDelayedExpansion, by default variable changes within the loop will not be visible until the loop completes.


This option is useful when dealing with a filenameset that is a long filename containing spaces, it allows you to put double quotes around the filename. The backquote character  is just below the ESC key on most keyboards.
Filenames which don’t contan spaces can still be referenced without using quotes.

Usebackq can be abbreviated to useback (undocumented.)


SKIP will skip processing a number of lines from the beginning of the file.
SKIP includes empty lines, but after the SKIP is complete, FOR /F ignores (does not iterate) empty lines.


The default end-of-line character is a semicolon ‘;’ when the FOR command reads a text file (or even a character string), any line that STARTS with the eol character will be ignored. In other words it is treated as a comment.
Use eol=X to change the eol character to X.

Often you will want to turn this feature off so that every line of your data file is processed, in theory “eol=” should turn this feature off, but in practice this fails to work correctly – it will set eol to whatever the next character is, often the quote or space character. One workaround is to set eol to some unusual character that you don’t expect to ever encounter in the data file e.g. “eol=€” or “eol=¬”. Another method is to escape every delimiter For /f tokens^=*^ delims^=^ eol^= %%a in (file.txt) do… (see forum for a discussion of this)

None of the options can be repeated, if you include say “eol=# eol=@” then only the second, “eol=@” is applied.


More than one delimiter can be specified so a string like ‘abcd+efg+hijk;lmno;pqr’ can be broken up using “delims=;+”.

for /f “tokens=1,2,3,4,5 delims=;+” %%G in (filename.txt) do echo %%G %%H %%K

You can use almost any character as a delimiter, but they are case sensitive.
If you don’t specify delims it will default to “delims=<tab><space>”

delims should always the last item in the options string “tokens=3 delims= ” not “delims=  tokens=3”
This is because the quotations around the options string do double duty as a terminator for the delims character(s), which is particularly important when that character is a space.

You can remove all delimiters by using “delims=” this will place everything on the line into the first token.

One special case is using a quote (“) as delimiter.
By default this will be misinterpreted as the end of the “delims string” – a workaround for this is to remove the outer enclosing quotes and instead escape all the delimiter chars with ^.

for /f tokens^=1^,2^,3^ delims^=^” %%G in (filename.txt) do echo %%G %%H %%I

n.b. some text editors will enter the TAB character as a series of spaces.


tokens=2,4,6 will cause the second, fourth and sixth items on each line to be processed.

tokens=2-6 will cause the second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth items on each line to be processed.

tokens=* will cause all items on each line to be processed.

tokens=3* will process the third token and the 4th + all subsequent items, this can also be written as tokens=3,*

Each token specified will cause a corresponding parameter letter to be allocated. The letters used for tokens are case sensitive.

If the last character in the tokens= string is an asterisk, then additional parameters are allocated for all the remaining text on the line.

The following ASCII characters can be used as FOR tokens:
ASCII 63 – 93 inclusive, 31 tokens: ? @ A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z [ \ ]
ASCII 95-123 inclusive, 29 tokens: _ ` a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z {
(there are a few other characters that can be used, but require escaping)

A single FOR /F command can never parse more than 31 tokens, to use more requires a workaround with multiple FOR commands.

The numbers specified in tokens= are automatically sorted, so for example tokens=5,7,1-3 and tokens=1,2,3,5,7 both produce the same result.

Matching the same token more than once (tokens=1,2,1) can give unpredictable results. Token variables can of course be used multiple times: Echo %%G %%H %%G

FOR tokens variables (or parameter names) are global, so in complex scripts which call one FOR statement from within another FOR statement you can refer to both sets of parameters.

The precedence/priority of FOR command options is: usebackq > skip > delims > eol > tokens

Splitting a string that includes spaces.

This can be done just as above, replacing “delims=,” with “delims= “

It is possible to specify either the tokens= and/or delims= options in any order, but whenever both delims and tokens are specified, they must be separated by a space, this space will NOT count as a token. For this reason it is recommended to always place delims as the last option before the closing quotation, it is much easier to see what is happening with one space (or no spaces) at the end of the string.

Parse a text string

A string of text will be treated just like a single line of input from a file, the string must be enclosed in double quotes (or single quotes with usebackq).

Echo just the date from the following string

FOR /F "tokens=4 delims=," %%G IN ("deposit,$4500,123.4,12-AUG-09") DO @echo Date paid %%G

Parse the output of a command:

FOR /F %%G IN ('"C:\program Files\command.exe"') DO ECHO %%G

Parse the contents of a file:

FOR /F "tokens=1,2* delims=," %%G IN (C:\MyDocu~1\mytex~1.txt) DO ECHO %%G

FOR /F "usebackq tokens=1,2* delims=," %%G IN ("C:\My Documents\my textfile.txt") DO ECHO %%G


To specify an exact set of files to be processed, such as all .MP3 files in a folder including subfolders and sorted by date – just use the DIR /b command to create the list of filenames ~ and use this variant of the FOR command syntax.


Many of the newer commands and utilities (e.g. WMIC) output text files in unicode format, these cannot be read by the FOR command which expects ASCII.
To convert the file format use the TYPE command.


If no data was processed then FOR /F will return ERRORLEVEL = 1

FOR does not, by itself, set or clear the Errorlevel.
FOR is an internal command.

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