Preface

When it comes to command line text processing, from an abstract point of view, there are three major pillars — grep for filtering, sed for substitution and awk for field processing. These tools have some overlapping features too, for example, all three of them have extensive filtering capabilities.

Unlike grep and sed, awk is a full blown programming language. However, this book intends to showcase awk one-liners that can be composed from the command line instead of writing a program file.

This book heavily leans on examples to present options and features of awk one by one. It is recommended that you manually type each example and experiment with them. Understanding both the nature of sample input string and the output produced is essential. As an analogy, consider learning to drive a bike or a car — no matter how much you read about them or listen to explanations, you need to practice a lot and infer your own conclusions. Should you feel that copy-paste is ideal for you, code snippets are available chapter wise on GitHub.

Prerequisites

  • Prior experience working with command line and bash shell, should know concepts like file redirection, command pipeline and so on
  • Familiarity with programming concepts like variables, printing, functions, control structures, arrays, etc
  • Knowing basics of grep and sed will help in understanding similar features of awk

If you are new to the world of command line, check out my curated resources on Linux CLI and Shell scripting before starting this book.

My Command Line Text Processing repository includes a chapter on GNU awk which has been edited and restructured to create this book.

Conventions

  • The examples presented here have been tested on GNU bash shell with GNU awk 5.1.0 and includes features not available in earlier versions.
  • Code snippets shown are copy pasted from bash shell and modified for presentation purposes. Some commands are preceded by comments to provide context and explanations. Blank lines have been added to improve readability, only real time is shown for speed comparisons, output is skipped for commands like wget and so on.
  • Unless otherwise noted, all examples and explanations are meant for ASCII characters.
  • awk would mean GNU awk, grep would mean GNU grep and so on unless otherwise specified.
  • External links are provided for further reading throughout the book. Not necessary to immediately visit them. They have been chosen with care and would help, especially during re-reads.
  • The learn_gnuawk repo has all the code snippets and files used in examples, exercises and other details related to the book. If you are not familiar with git command, click the Code button on the webpage to get the files.

Acknowledgements

Special thanks to all my friends and online acquaintances for their help, support and encouragement, especially during these difficult times.

Feedback and Errata

I would highly appreciate if you'd let me know how you felt about this book, it would help to improve this book as well as my future attempts. Also, please do let me know if you spot any error or typo.

Issue Manager: https://github.com/learnbyexample/learn_gnuawk/issues

E-mail: learnbyexample.net@gmail.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/learn_byexample

Author info

Sundeep Agarwal is a freelance trainer, author and mentor. His previous experience includes working as a Design Engineer at Analog Devices for more than 5 years. You can find his other works, primarily focused on Linux command line, text processing, scripting languages and curated lists, at https://github.com/learnbyexample. He has also been a technical reviewer for Command Line Fundamentals book and video course published by Packt.

List of books: https://learnbyexample.github.io/books/

License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

Code snippets are available under MIT License

Resources mentioned in Acknowledgements section are available under original licenses.

Book version

1.4

See Version_changes.md to track changes across book versions.