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The AWK Programming Language

4.27  ·  Rating details ·  164 ratings  ·  16 reviews
Originally developed by Alfred Aho, Brian Kernighan, and Peter Weinberger in 1977, AWK is a pattern-matching language for writing short programs to perform common data-manipulation tasks. In 1985, a new version of the language was developed, incorporating additional features such as multiple input files, dynamic regular expressions, and user-defined funcitons. This new ...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published January 11th 1988 by Pearson (first published January 1st 1988)
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Erik Nilson
This book is a must read for everyone who WORKS with software development. Definitely amazing!
Nov 10, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Most of my early programing was with Pascal. With the discovery of this book, and the awk program provided by the Thompson Automation Software (a super-set of the traditional Awk. Unfortunately TAS is now extinct) for the past 20 years all of my programing has been with AWK. From small one line scripts to 5 pages of code, all done with AWK (TAWK). It's been a great ride. I'm 80 now, and still at it.
Nov 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Wow, what a gem of a book! I read it for free in PDF form online (you can find it at, but loved it so much that I've ordered a paper copy on eBay for the grand sum of $4.

Despite its age, this remains a shining example of how to write the perfect programming book. It begins with a brief introduction to the language to get you going. Chapter Two is dry reference which you should absolutely skim as the authors suggest, lest you die of boredom. Then all of the other chapters show
Aug 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
At a remove of several decades, when maximal complexity and marketing juju (hadoop)

AWK’s purposes and perspective

[[[draft review. goodreads doesn't have a save function]]]

AWK is a small program WRITER. So it sits between "command-line tools" like cut, grep, par, col, lam, join† ----- and one-liners from perl/ruby. It’s more like making a dumb plot in gnu terminal and exporting this as a bash command, or calling r -pie 'as.numeric(stem(stdin()))' from littler to get a stem plot.

Are there
Madhura Parikh
Jul 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Just read some parts of all the chapters, the first chapter pretty much covers whatever working knowledge you need to get started. The remaining chapters are more detailed, and probably server more as a reference. I love Kernighan's writing style and this book didn't disappoint.
Emile Mercier
Feb 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The POSIX awk bible.
Berin Larson
Jan 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Surprisingly good.
Pat Rondon
Sep 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is another classic language manual in the same tradition as Kernighan and Ritchie's "The C Programming Language". As with "The C Programming Language", this book is a compact, lucid,tightly-written guide to its subject. There's a lot of knowledge packed into a small number of pages here, not just about Awk, but about computing in general --- among the examples are toy or skeletal implementations of an awk-subset-to-C compiler, a column-oriented database, and the "make" utility.

Nov 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
All I wanted was to improve my shell text processing skills a little, but this book is so much more than that. Some of the examples go pretty deep and it could really be a pretty good introduction to the topic of programming for someone. It flows nicely and it isn't a long read, so I recommend you to check it out even if you aren't especially into AWK (which turns out to be a relatively pleasant language to use, actually.)
Andy Chu
Mar 14, 2010 rated it really liked it
A minor classic that I managed to dig up. It covers a surprisingly large range of topics, and does so with style and eloquence. It's not just about awk -- it gives you a mini-CS education (e.g. topological sort in awk).

awk doesn't receive much credit these days, but it was the predecessor of Perl, which is known for starting this era of getting things done with dynamic languages.
Jon Gauthier
Jan 29, 2013 marked it as to-read
Shelves: programming
I'm always amazed by the powerful little one-liners awk can shoulder, but have never given the language much study. It'd be useful, probably, to delve a little deeper with a book like this and sharpen my text-processing skills a bit more.
carl  theaker
Feb 16, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction

A good start on the awk language. My brain and
learning method prefer a lot of examples, this has some good ones
but is a slender volume.
Used awk for a lot of statistical analysis on large text files.
Handy once you get used to it.
Raghu Hudli
Sep 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing
AWK is a wonderful language. Thanks to this great book, I was able to write countless utilities to tackle data transformation in text files. What would I have done, without AWK and this book! Million thanks to the illustrious authors!
Siraaj Khandkar
Jan 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Besides being the best tutorial on AWK, this is one of the best books on programming in general!
Jun 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: computer-science
The examples were really good.
Jim Brohard
Aug 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-i-own
Very complete
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