I recently had the need to cut a fixed width text file at a certain column, and I had to do it in the Windows 10 world, without any particular utility.

In linux it would be rather simple, thanks to the cut command:

$ cut -c -10 example.txt

On my windows machines there’s always Perl available, and one alternative solution would be using one liner substitution:

perl -pe s/(.{10}).*/$1/ example.txt

but on my colleagues machines there are no particular utilities installed, so I had to create the following script:

@echo off
setlocal EnableDelayedExpansion
for /f "delims=" %%r in (example.txt) do (
	set s=%%r
	echo !s:~0,10!

it’s still possible to use a single line command, without the need of a .cmd script, but firts we have to launch the prompt with a special parameter cmd /v which indicates that delayed expansion is enabled (it is disabled by default to be compatible with MS-DOS 2.0 batch files!). After we launch cmd /v the command becomes:

for /f "delims=" %r in (example.txt) do @(set s=%r && echo !s:~0,10!)

not really intuitive, is it? I think I am missing my teenager days when I used to program Assembly x86: that was complex, but for good reasons. Cmd scripting is still complicated, but for no knowns reasons! Also, please note that this solution is painfully slow.