5.5.1 Introduction to the printf Statement

A simple printf statement looks like this:

printf format, item1, item2, ...

As for print, the entire list of arguments may optionally be enclosed in parentheses. Here too, the parentheses are necessary if any of the item expressions uses the ‘>’ relational operator; otherwise, it can be confused with an output redirection (see Redirecting Output of print and printf).

The difference between printf and print is the format argument. This is an expression whose value is taken as a string; it specifies how to output each of the other arguments. It is called the format string.

The format string is very similar to that in the ISO C library function printf(). Most of format is text to output verbatim. Scattered among this text are format specifiers—one per item. Each format specifier says to output the next item in the argument list at that place in the format.

The printf statement does not automatically append a newline to its output. It outputs only what the format string specifies. So if a newline is needed, you must include one in the format string. The output separator variables OFS and ORS have no effect on printf statements. For example:

$ awk 'BEGIN {
>    ORS = "\nOUCH!\n"; OFS = "+"
>    msg = "Don\47t Panic!"
>    printf "%s\n", msg
> }'
-| Don't Panic!

Here, neither the ‘+’ nor the ‘OUCH!’ appears in the output message.