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The GNU Project and This Book

The Free Software Foundation (FSF) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the production and distribution of freely distributable software. It was founded by Richard M. Stallman, the author of the original Emacs editor. GNU Emacs is the most widely used version of Emacs today.

The GNU6 Project is an ongoing effort on the part of the Free Software Foundation to create a complete, freely distributable, POSIX-compliant computing environment. The FSF uses the GNU General Public License (GPL) to ensure that its software’s source code is always available to the end user. A copy of the GPL is included in this Web page for your reference (see Copying). The GPL applies to the C language source code for gawk. To find out more about the FSF and the GNU Project online, see the GNU Project’s home page. This Web page may also be read from GNU’s website.

A shell, an editor (Emacs), highly portable optimizing C, C++, and Objective-C compilers, a symbolic debugger and dozens of large and small utilities (such as gawk), have all been completed and are freely available. The GNU operating system kernel (the HURD), has been released but remains in an early stage of development.

Until the GNU operating system is more fully developed, you should consider using GNU/Linux, a freely distributable, Unix-like operating system for Intel, Power Architecture, Sun SPARC, IBM S/390, and other systems.7 Many GNU/Linux distributions are available for download from the Internet.

The Web page you are reading is actually free—at least, the information in it is free to anyone. The machine-readable source code for the Web page comes with gawk. (Take a moment to check the Free Documentation License in GNU Free Documentation License.)

The Web page itself has gone through multiple previous editions. Paul Rubin wrote the very first draft of The GAWK Manual; it was around 40 pages long. Diane Close and Richard Stallman improved it, yielding a version that was around 90 pages and barely described the original, “old” version of awk.

I started working with that version in the fall of 1988. As work on it progressed, the FSF published several preliminary versions (numbered 0.x). In 1996, edition 1.0 was released with gawk 3.0.0. The FSF published the first two editions under the title The GNU Awk User’s Guide.

This edition maintains the basic structure of the previous editions. For FSF edition 4.0, the content was thoroughly reviewed and updated. All references to gawk versions prior to 4.0 were removed. Of significant note for that edition was the addition of Debugger.

For FSF edition 4.1, the content has been reorganized into parts, and the major new additions are Arbitrary Precision Arithmetic, and Dynamic Extensions.

This Web page will undoubtedly continue to evolve. If you find an error in the Web page, please report it! See Bugs, for information on submitting problem reports electronically.



GNU stands for “GNU’s Not Unix.”


The terminology “GNU/Linux” is explained in the Glossary.

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