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1.3 Some Simple Examples

The following command runs a simple awk program that searches the input file BBS-list for the character string ‘foo’ (a grouping of characters is usually called a string; the term string is based on similar usage in English, such as “a string of pearls,” or “a string of cars in a train”):

     awk '/foo/ { print $0 }' BBS-list

When lines containing ‘foo’ are found, they are printed because ‘print $0 means print the current line. (Just ‘print’ by itself means the same thing, so we could have written that instead.)

You will notice that slashes (‘/’) surround the string ‘foo’ in the awk program. The slashes indicate that ‘foo’ is the pattern to search for. This type of pattern is called a regular expression, which is covered in more detail later (see Regexp). The pattern is allowed to match parts of words. There are single quotes around the awk program so that the shell won't interpret any of it as special shell characters.

Here is what this program prints:

     $ awk '/foo/ { print $0 }' BBS-list
     -| fooey        555-1234     2400/1200/300     B
     -| foot         555-6699     1200/300          B
     -| macfoo       555-6480     1200/300          A
     -| sabafoo      555-2127     1200/300          C

In an awk rule, either the pattern or the action can be omitted, but not both. If the pattern is omitted, then the action is performed for every input line. If the action is omitted, the default action is to print all lines that match the pattern.

Thus, we could leave out the action (the print statement and the curly braces) in the previous example and the result would be the same: awk prints all lines matching the pattern ‘foo’. By comparison, omitting the print statement but retaining the curly braces makes an empty action that does nothing (i.e., no lines are printed).

Many practical awk programs are just a line or two. Following is a collection of useful, short programs to get you started. Some of these programs contain constructs that haven't been covered yet. (The description of the program will give you a good idea of what is going on, but please read the rest of the Web page to become an awk expert!) Most of the examples use a data file named data. This is just a placeholder; if you use these programs yourself, substitute your own file names for data. For future reference, note that there is often more than one way to do things in awk. At some point, you may want to look back at these examples and see if you can come up with different ways to do the same things shown here: