tcpslice - extract pieces of and/or glue together tcpdump files
tcpslice [ -dRrt ] [ -w file ]
[ start-time [ end-time ] ] file ...
Tcpslice is a program for extracting portions of packet-trace files
generated using tcpdump(1)’s -w flag. It can also be used to glue
together several such files, as discussed below.
The basic operation of tcpslice is to copy to stdout all packets from
its input file(s) whose timestamps fall within a given range. The
starting and ending times of the range may be specified on the command
line. All ranges are inclusive. The starting time defaults to the
time of the first packet in the first input file; we call this the
first time. The ending time defaults to ten years after the starting
time. Thus, the command tcpslice trace-file simply copies trace-file
to stdout (assuming the file does not include more than ten years’
worth of data).
There are a number of ways to specify times. The first is using Unix
timestamps of the form sssssssss.uuuuuu (this is the format specified
by tcpdump’s -tt flag). For example, 654321098.7654 specifies 38 sec-
onds and 765,400 microseconds after 8:51PM PDT, Sept. 25, 1990.
All examples in this manual are given for PDT times, but when display-
ing times and interpreting times symbolically as discussed below, tcp-
slice uses the local timezone, regardless of the timezone in which the
tcpdump file was generated. The daylight-savings setting used is that
which is appropriate for the local timezone at the date in question.
For example, times associated with summer months will usually include
daylight-savings effects, and those with winter months will not.
Times may also be specified relative to either the first time (when
specifying a starting time) or the starting time (when specifying an
ending time) by preceding a numeric value in seconds with a ‘+’. For
example, a starting time of +200 indicates 200 seconds after the first
time, and the two arguments +200 +300 indicate from 200 seconds after
the first time through 500 seconds after the first time.
Times may also be specified in terms of years (y), months (m), days
(d), hours (h), minutes (m), seconds (s), and microseconds(u). For
example, the Unix timestamp 654321098.7654 discussed above could also
be expressed as 90y9m25d20h51m38s765400u.
When specifying times using this style, fields that are omitted default
as follows. If the omitted field is a unit greater than that of the
first specified field, then its value defaults to the corresponding
value taken from either first time (if the starting time is being spec-
ified) or the starting time (if the ending time is being specified).
If the omitted field is a unit less than that of the first specified
field, then it defaults to zero. For example, suppose that the input
file has a first time of the Unix timestamp mentioned above, i.e., 38
seconds and 765,400 microseconds after 8:51PM PDT, Sept. 25, 1990. To
specify 9:36PM PDT (exactly) on the same date we could use 21h36m. To
specify a range from 9:36PM PDT through 1:54AM PDT the next day we
could use 21h36m 26d1h54m.
Relative times can also be specified when using the ymdhmsu format.
Omitted fields then default to 0 if the unit of the field is greater
than that of the first specified field, and to the corresponding value
taken from either the first time or the starting time if the omitted
field’s unit is less than that of the first specified field. Given a
first time of the Unix timestamp mentioned above, 22h +1h10m specifies
a range from 10:00PM PDT on that date through 11:10PM PDT, and +1h
+1h10m specifies a range from 38.7654 seconds after 9:51PM PDT through
38.7654 seconds after 11:01PM PDT. The first hour of the file could be
extracted using +0 +1h.
Note that with the ymdhmsu format there is an ambiguity between using m
for ‘month’ or for ‘minute’. The ambiguity is resolved as follows: if
an m field is followed by a d field then it is interpreted as specify-
ing months; otherwise it specifies minutes.
If more than one input file is specified then tcpslice first copies
packets lying in the given range from the first file; it then increases
the starting time of the range to lie just beyond the timestamp of the
last packet in the first file, repeats the process with the second
file, and so on. Thus files with interleaved packets are not merged.
For a given file, only packets that are newer than any in the preceding
files will be considered. This mechanism avoids any possibility of a
packet occurring more than once in the output.
If any of -R, -r or -t are specified then tcpslice reports the times-
tamps of the first and last packets in each input file and exits. Only
one of these three options may be specified.
-d Dump the start and end times specified by the given range and
exit. This option is useful for checking that the given range
actually specifies the times you think it does. If one of -R,
-r or -t has been specified then the times are dumped in the
corresponding format; otherwise, raw format ( -R) is used.
-R Dump the timestamps of the first and last packets in each input
file as raw timestamps (i.e., in the form sssssssss.uuuuuu).
-r Same as -R except the timestamps are dumped in human-readable
format, similar to that used by date(1).
-t Same as -R except the timestamps are dumped in tcpslice format,
i.e., in the ymdhmsu format discussed above.
-w Direct the output to file rather than stdout.
The original author was:
Vern Paxson, of Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, University of California,
It is currently being maintained by tcpdump.org.
The current version is available in the ‘‘tcpslice’’ module of the CVS
tree at tcpdump.org; see the tcpdump.org home page at
for information on anonymous CVS access.
The original distribution is available via anonymous ftp:
Please send problems, bugs, questions, desirable enhancements, etc. to:
Please send source code contributions, etc. to:
An input filename that beings with a digit or a ‘+’ can be confused
with a start/end time. Such filenames can be specified with a leading
‘./’; for example, specify the file ‘04Jul76.trace’ as
tcpslice cannot read its input from stdin, since it uses random-access
to rummage through its input files.
tcpslice refuses to write to its output if it is a terminal (as indi-
cated by isatty(3)). This is not a bug but a feature, to prevent it
from spraying binary data to the user’s terminal. Note that this means
you must either redirect stdout or specify an output file via -w.
tcpslice will not work properly on tcpdump files spanning more than one
year; with files containing portions of packets whose original length
was more than 65,535 bytes; nor with files containing fewer than three
packets. Such files result in the error message: ‘couldn’t find final
packet in file’. These problems are due to the interpolation scheme
used by tcpslice to greatly speed up its processing when dealing with
large trace files. Note that tcpslice can efficiently extract slices
from the middle of trace files of any size, and can also work with
truncated trace files (i.e., the final packet in the file is only par-
tially present, typically due to tcpdump being ungracefully killed).
21 December 1996 TCPSLICE(8)
Man(1) output converted with