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5.3 Output Separators

As mentioned previously, a print statement contains a list of items separated by commas. In the output, the items are normally separated by single spaces. However, this doesn’t need to be the case; a single space is simply the default. Any string of characters may be used as the output field separator by setting the built-in variable OFS. The initial value of this variable is the string " "—that is, a single space.

The output from an entire print statement is called an output record. Each print statement outputs one output record, and then outputs a string called the output record separator (or ORS). The initial value of ORS is the string "\n"; i.e., a newline character. Thus, each print statement normally makes a separate line.

In order to change how output fields and records are separated, assign new values to the variables OFS and ORS. The usual place to do this is in the BEGIN rule (see BEGIN/END), so that it happens before any input is processed. It can also be done with assignments on the command line, before the names of the input files, or using the -v command-line option (see Options). The following example prints the first and second fields of each input record, separated by a semicolon, with a blank line added after each newline:

$ awk 'BEGIN { OFS = ";"; ORS = "\n\n" }
>            { print $1, $2 }' mail-list
-| Amelia;555-5553
-| 
-| Anthony;555-3412
-| 
-| Becky;555-7685
-| 
-| Bill;555-1675
-| 
-| Broderick;555-0542
-| 
-| Camilla;555-2912
-| 
-| Fabius;555-1234
-| 
-| Julie;555-6699
-| 
-| Martin;555-6480
-| 
-| Samuel;555-3430
-| 
-| Jean-Paul;555-2127
-| 

If the value of ORS does not contain a newline, the program’s output runs together on a single line.


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