Installation and Documentation

The command name awk is derived from its developers — Alfred V. Aho, Peter J. Weinberger, and Brian W. Kernighan. Over the years, it has been adapted and modified by various other developers. See gawk manual: History for more details. This chapter will show how to install or upgrade awk followed by details related to documentation.


If you are on a Unix like system, you are most likely to already have some version of awk installed. This book is primarily for GNU awk. As there are syntax and feature differences between various implementations, please make sure to follow along with what is presented here. GNU awk is part of text creation and manipulation commands provided by GNU. To install newer or particular version, visit gnu: software gawk. Check release notes for an overview of changes between versions.

$ # use a dir, say ~/Downloads/awk_install before following the steps below
$ wget
$ tar -Jxf gawk-5.1.0.tar.xz
$ cd gawk-5.1.0/
$ ./configure
$ make
$ sudo make install

$ type -a awk
awk is /usr/local/bin/awk
awk is /usr/bin/awk
$ awk --version | head -n1
GNU Awk 5.1.0, API: 3.0

info See also gawk manual: Installation for advanced options and instructions to install awk on other platforms.


It is always a good idea to know where to find the documentation. From command line, you can use man awk for a short manual and info awk for full documentation. The online GNU awk manual has a better reading interface and provides the most complete documentation, examples and information about other awk versions, POSIX standard, etc.

Here's a snippet from man awk:

$ man awk
GAWK(1)                        Utility Commands                        GAWK(1)  
       gawk - pattern scanning and processing language

       gawk [ POSIX or GNU style options ] -f program-file [ -- ] file ...
       gawk [ POSIX or GNU style options ] [ -- ] program-text file ...

       Gawk  is  the  GNU Project's implementation of the AWK programming lan‐
       guage.  It conforms to the definition of  the  language  in  the  POSIX
       1003.1  Standard.   This version in turn is based on the description in
       The AWK Programming Language, by Aho, Kernighan, and Weinberger.   Gawk
       provides  the additional features found in the current version of Brian
       Kernighan's awk and numerous GNU-specific extensions.

Options overview

For a quick overview of all the available options, use awk --help from the command line.

$ awk --help
Usage: awk [POSIX or GNU style options] -f progfile [--] file ...
Usage: awk [POSIX or GNU style options] [--] 'program' file ...
POSIX options:                  GNU long options: (standard)
    -f progfile                 --file=progfile
    -F fs                       --field-separator=fs
    -v var=val                  --assign=var=val
Short options:                  GNU long options: (extensions)
    -b                          --characters-as-bytes
    -c                          --traditional
    -C                          --copyright
    -d[file]                    --dump-variables[=file]
    -D[file]                    --debug[=file]
    -e 'program-text'           --source='program-text'
    -E file                     --exec=file
    -g                          --gen-pot
    -h                          --help
    -i includefile              --include=includefile
    -l library                  --load=library
    -L[fatal|invalid|no-ext]    --lint[=fatal|invalid|no-ext]
    -M                          --bignum
    -N                          --use-lc-numeric
    -n                          --non-decimal-data
    -o[file]                    --pretty-print[=file]
    -O                          --optimize
    -p[file]                    --profile[=file]
    -P                          --posix
    -r                          --re-interval
    -s                          --no-optimize
    -S                          --sandbox
    -t                          --lint-old
    -V                          --version