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Using This Book

The term awk refers to a particular program as well as to the language you use to tell this program what to do. When we need to be careful, we call the language “the awk language,” and the program “the awk utility.” This Web page explains both how to write programs in the awk language and how to run the awk utility. The term “awk program” refers to a program written by you in the awk programming language.

Primarily, this Web page explains the features of awk as defined in the POSIX standard. It does so in the context of the gawk implementation. While doing so, it also attempts to describe important differences between gawk and other awk implementations.5 Finally, it notes any gawk features that are not in the POSIX standard for awk.

This Web page has the difficult task of being both a tutorial and a reference. If you are a novice, feel free to skip over details that seem too complex. You should also ignore the many cross-references; they are for the expert user and for the Info and HTML versions of the Web page.

There are sidebars scattered throughout the Web page. They add a more complete explanation of points that are relevant, but not likely to be of interest on first reading. All appear in the index, under the heading “sidebar.”

Most of the time, the examples use complete awk programs. Some of the more advanced sections show only the part of the awk program that illustrates the concept being described.

Although this Web page is aimed principally at people who have not been exposed to awk, there is a lot of information here that even the awk expert should find useful. In particular, the description of POSIX awk and the example programs in Library Functions, and in Sample Programs, should be of interest.

This Web page is split into several parts, as follows:



All such differences appear in the index under the entry “differences in awk and gawk.”

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