An Introduction to AWK

awk is a powerful tool. It is actually a Turing-complete language, meaning that you can technically write any kind of program with it. You could implement the classic sorting algorithms or more complex things such as a parser or an interpreter. Examples of this kind can be found in the “AWK Programming Language” book written by awk‘s authors. The reason awk is still popular today, though, has nothing to do with its generality and more with its usefulness working in the command line.

Whether you are trying to extract and format some textual data or build a nifty command to make your life easier, awk can really help you get the job done. Indeed If you search for “awk” in our code base, it appears about 520 times.

awk was created by Alfred Aho, Peter J. Weinberger and Brian Kernighan back in 1977 while working at Bell Labs. It was designed for text processing and typically used as a data extraction and reporting tool.

During the early days of Unix, awk was the only scripting language, besides Bash, available by default. Surprisingly enough, it is still widely used today by many people for its simplicity and power.