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Foreword to the Fourth Edition

Some things don’t change. Thirteen years ago I wrote: “If you use AWK or want to learn how, then read this book.” True then, and still true today.

Learning to use a programming language is about more than mastering the syntax. One needs to acquire an understanding of how to use the features of the language to solve practical programming problems. A focus of this book is many examples that show how to use AWK.

Some things do change. Our computers are much faster and have more memory. Consequently, speed and storage inefficiencies of a high-level language matter less. Prototyping in AWK and then rewriting in C for performance reasons happens less, because more often the prototype is fast enough.

Of course, there are computing operations that are best done in C or C++. With gawk 4.1 and later, you do not have to choose between writing your program in AWK or in C/C++. You can write most of your program in AWK and the aspects that require C/C++ capabilities can be written in C/C++, and then the pieces glued together when the gawk module loads the C/C++ module as a dynamic plug-in. Writing Extensions for gawk, has all the details, and, as expected, many examples to help you learn the ins and outs.

I enjoy programming in AWK and had fun (re)reading this book. I think you will too.

Michael Brennan
Author of mawk
October 2014