A Rose by Any Other Name

The awk language has evolved over the years. Full details are provided in The Evolution of the awk Language. The language described in this Web page is often referred to as “new awk.” By analogy, the original version of awk is referred to as “old awk.”

On most current systems, when you run the awk utility you get some version of new awk.4 If your system’s standard awk is the old one, you will see something like this if you try the following test program:

$ awk 1 /dev/null
error→ awk: syntax error near line 1
error→ awk: bailing out near line 1

In this case, you should find a version of new awk, or just install gawk!

Throughout this Web page, whenever we refer to a language feature that should be available in any complete implementation of POSIX awk, we simply use the term awk. When referring to a feature that is specific to the GNU implementation, we use the term gawk.



Only Solaris systems still use an old awk for the default awk utility. A more modern awk lives in /usr/xpg6/bin on these systems.