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Useful awk one-liners

Submitted by on November 19, 2005 – 10:38 pm 7 Comments

Useful awk code snippets for your sysadmin tasks.

pattern matching and processing 

awk 'pattern {action}' filename 

reads one line at a time from file, checks for pattern match, performs action if pattern matched pattern

NR is a special awk variable meaning the line number of the current record
can use a line number, to select a specific line, by comparing it to NR (for example: NR == 2)
can specify a range of line numbers (for example: NR == 2, NR == 4)
can specify a regular expression, to select all lines that match

$n are special awk variables, meaning the value of the nth field (field delimiter is space or tab)

$0 is the entire record
can use field values, by comparing to $n (for example: $3 == 65)
every line is selected if no pattern is specified


print - print line(s) that match the pattern, or print fields within matching lines
print is default if no action is specified
there are many, many instruction, including just about all C statements with similar syntax
other instructions will be covered in future courses

examples, using the file cars from page 654 of "A Practical Guide to Linux"

awk 'NR == 2, NR == 4' cars - print the 2nd through 4th lines (default action is to print entire line)
awk '/chevy/' cars - print only lines matching regular expression, same as grep 'chevy' cars
awk '{print $3, $1}' cars - print third and first field of all lines (default pattern matches all lines)
awk '/chevy/ {print $3, $1}' cars - print third and first fiield of lines matching regular expression
awk '$3 == 65' cars - print only lines with a third field value of 65
awk '$5 < = 3000' cars - print only lines with a fifth field value that is less than or equal to 3000
the file testfile can be used with the following examples:
awk '{print $1}' testfile - print first field of every record
awk '{print $3 $1}' testfile
awk '{print $3, $1}' testfile - inserts output field separator (variable OFS, default is space)
awk -F, '{print $2}' testfile - specifies that , is input field separator, default is space or tab
awk '$2 ~ /[0-9]/ {print $3, $1}' testfile - searches for reg-exp (a digit) only in the second field
awk '{printf "%-30s%20sn", $3, $2}' testfile - print 3rd field left-justified in a 30 character field, 2nd field right-justified in a 20 character field, then skip to a new line (required with printf)

awk '$3 <= 23' testfile - prints lines where 3rd field has a value <= 23
awk '$3 <='$var1' {print $3}' testfile - $var1 is a shell variable, not an awk variable, e.g. first execute: var1=23
awk '$3<='$2' {$3++} {print $0}' testfile - if field 3 <= argument 2 then increment field 3, e.g. first execute: set xxx 23

awk '$3> 1 && $3 < 23' testfile - prints lines where 3rd field is in range 1 to 23
awk '$3 < 2 || $3 > 4' testfile - prints lines where 3rd field is outside of range 2 to 4
awk '$3 < "4"' testfile - double quotes force string comparison
NF is an awk variable meaning # of fields in current record
awk '! (NF == 4)' testfile - lines without 4 fields
NR is an awk variable meaning # of current record
awk 'NR == 2,NR==7' testfile - range of records from record number 2 to 7
BEGIN is an awk pattern meaning "before first record processed"
awk 'BEGIN {OFS="~"} {print $1, $2}' testfile - print 1st and 2nd field of each record, separated by ~
END is an awk pattern meaning "after last record processed"
awk '{var+=$3} END {print var}' testfile - sum of 3rd fields in all records
awk '{var+=$3} END {print var/NR}' testfile - average of 3rd fields in all records - note that awk handles decimal arithmetic

awk '$5 > var {var=$5} END {print var}' testfile - maximum of 5th fields in all records
awk '$5 > var {var=$5} END {print var}' testfile - maximum of 5th fields in all records
sort -rk5 testfile | awk 'NR==1 {var=$5} var==$5 {print $0}' - print all records with maximum 5th field

Simple awk operations involving functions within the command line:

awk '/chevy/' cars

# Match lines (records) that contain the keyword chevy note that chevy is a regular expression...

awk '{print $3, $1}' cars

# Pattern not specified - therefore, all lines (records) for fields 3 and 1 are displayed
# Note that comma (,) between fields represents delimiter (ie. space)

awk '/chevy/ {print $3, $1}' cars

# Similar to above, but for chevy

awk '/^h/' cars

# Match cars that begin with h

awk '$1 ~ /^h/' cars                       ### useful ###

# Match with field #1 that begins with h

awk '$1 ~ /h/' cars

# Match with field #1 any epression containing the letter h

awk '$2 ~ /^[tm]/ {print $3, $2, "$" $5}' cars

# Match cars that begin with t or m and display field 3 (year), field 2 (model name) and then $ followed by field 4 (price)

Complex awk operations involving functions within the command line:

awk ‘/chevy/ {print $3, $1}’ cars
# prints 3rd & 1st fields of record containing chevy

awk ‘$1 ~ /^c/ {print $2, $3}’ cars
# print 2nd & 3rd fields of record with 1st field beginning with c

awk ‘NR==2 {print $1, $4}’ cars
# prints 1st & 4th fields of record for record #2

awk ‘NR==2, NR==8 {print $2, $3}’ cars
# prints 2nd & 3rd fields of record for records 2 through 8

awk ‘$3 >= 65 {print $3, $1}’ cars
# prints 3rd & 1st fields of record with 3rd field >= 65

awk ‘$5 >= “2000” && $5 < “9000” {print $2, $3}’ cars
# prints 2nd & 3rd fields of record within range of 2000 to under 9000
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  • David says:

    my legs are pretty awk like their really short and my calves are super short so idk but basically from my knee to about mid-thigh my legs like go inwards but then past mid-thigh to the beginning of my thigh they go out and ive been trying to get a thigh gap but lately ive been gaining muscle in that area causing the top half of my thighs to go out even more. How can i loose weight in that area and everywhere without gaining muscle and also what stretches or what in general can i do to grow taller and lengthen my legs?

  • Scott Bull says:

    I have my first date with my bf tmrw and i don’t want it to be really awk so i was wondering if any one had any good conversation starters.
    Its my first date with him cause we got together like yesterday

  • kiltakblog says:

    So me and my ex are friends nows but sshe never wants to chill. She always txts and calls me at nightt like as if we were still together. But when i ask her to chill or to go out she always gets all awk or finds an excuse to not go. I think shes affaird to like me again but im not sure. Its so hard for me to understand her. Woman are so complex. Smh. Any advise?

  • Austin says:

    Theres this girl who seems really cool and I wanna get to be friends with her. However, she doesn’t know who I am and I don’t know how to go up and say anything. I can’t just strike up a convo with a stranger in the hallway at school, that would be awk, I think more so for her. How can I get to know her without being creepy? I’m friends with some of her friends but I’ve never even said hi to her b4.

  • Pacman says:

    I’m looking for a good way to understand what the hell I’m doing. I was wondering if there were aany good books or just stick to online tutorials and try to get some basics down first. I messed with it a little bit in PHP and I see the power they have. I’m hooked. I want to master them. Especially for things like sed, awk, grep, and perl.

  • Picean says:

    how are you supposed to kiss a girl. how do you know she wants to be kissed. where are good place to kiss (a movie seems kinda awk or cheesy). do girls like a surprise kiss as a first kiss.

  • DuckieM10 says:

    all my friends have added what schools they are going to next year already and i haven’t yet. i just feel like its late and it would be awk if i added it now.

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