awk Examples

The basic template for an awk program has 4 parts, namely:

the delimiter (which uses -F rather than the style of -d from cut)

the begin section, which only runs 1 time at the start of the program

the middle section, which runs 1 time per line, and

the end section, which only runs 1 time at the end of the program.

(The idea that a command will run 1 time per line is the main idea in awk.)

Every awk program looks like this (here we use comma for the delimiter):

awk -F, 'BEGIN{ } { } END{ }'

Here is an example that prints a welcome message at the start,

and then prints each line (the first 10 lines of the file)

and then prints a note of happiness at the end

head 2005.csv | awk -F, 'BEGIN{ print "Hello and welcome to awk." } { print $0 } END{ print "That was awesome!!!!" }'


The begin and end section are optional, and are often not present.

They are useful for typing headers and footers for the data.

The end section is especially useful for displaying the results of a computation.


If we remove the begin and end section, the awk program looks like this:

awk -F, '{ }'

We emphasize that awk refers to each field with a dollar sign,

i.e., $3 means the 3rd field on the row.

There is one variable which has a special meaning, namely, $0 refers to the whole line.

Two more notes, and then we do some examples.

NF stands for the number of fields on a line,

and NR stands for the record number (the same as the line number)


To demonstrate the power of awk, we first change directories,

to the Data Expo 2009 data about airline flights

cd /depot/statclass/data/dataexpo2009/

Checking the head of the 2005.csv file, we remind ourselves what types of data

are found in the 29 fields

head 2005.csv

We can print the 19th field -- which is the distance of the flight -- by using cut:

head 2005.csv | cut -d, -f19

The equivalent program in awk is this:

head 2005.csv | awk -F, 'BEGIN{ } { print $19 } END{ }'

That is a case in which the begin and end sections are unnecessary,

so we could have written instead:

head 2005.csv | awk -F, '{ print $19 }'

This immediately gives us the power to do things we could not do before.


For instance, we can print the data for flights whose distance exceeds 500.

head 2005.csv | awk -F, 'BEGIN{ } {if ($19 > 500) {print $0}} END{ }'

This is easier to read if we again drop the begin and end sections:

head 2005.csv | awk -F, '{if ($19 > 500) {print $0}}'

Only the header appears, if we try to print the flights whose distance exceeds 1000:

head 2005.csv | awk -F, '{if ($19 > 1000) {print $0}}'

Now we will add the flight distances across all flights.

First we do this for the head, to make sure that our code works properly:

head 2005.csv | awk -F, '{mileage = mileage + $19} END{print mileage}'

We find that the first several flights traveled 7803 miles altogether.

We created the variable mileage here, but we could have named it anything.

If we name it something arbitrary like pizza, we get the same effect:

head 2005.csv | awk -F, '{pizza = pizza + $19} END{print pizza}'

Now we return to the previous command, but we analyze the entire file,

by changing head to cat:

cat 2005.csv | awk -F, '{mileage = mileage + $19} END{print mileage}'

We see that the airplanes flew 5167936343 miles altogether in 2005.

Question to students: Are you remembering to use the "up" and "down" arrows

when you want to run one of the recent commands? This saves a lot of time!

(Retyping is too slow.)


Here is another example. Suppose that we want to print the departure delays

and the distances too. We already knew how to print them both at once,

using the cut command:

head 2005.csv | cut -d, -f16,19

We can do the same thing with awk:

head 2005.csv | awk -F, '{delay = delay + $16; mileage = mileage + $19 } END{print delay, mileage}'

or equivalently, using "+=" to just add up the values:

head 2005.csv | awk -F, '{delay += $16; mileage += $19 } END{print delay, mileage}'

Notice that we only printed one line of output, namely, at the end of the processing, we printed the total delay and the total mileage.

We did not previously know how to sum variables, using the techniques from previous weeks.


As another example, we can print the flights that departed from Boston:

head 2005.csv | awk -F, '{if ($17 == "BOS") {print $0} }'

or the flights that departed from either BOS or ORD (the "or" symbol is "||")

head 2005.csv | awk -F, '{if (($17 == "BOS") || ($17 == "ORD")) {print $0} }'

We can print the flights that departed from BOS

and landed at ORD (the "and" symbol is "&&"):

head 2005.csv | awk -F, '{if (($17 == "BOS") && ($18 == "ORD")) {print $0} }'


Here is another way to find all of the airports

First we print the 17th and 18th fields

head 2005.csv | awk -F, '{print $17, $18}'

Now we print the 17th and 18th fields with a comma in between

head 2005.csv | awk -F, '{print $17","$18}'

Finally, we print the 17th and 18th fields with a newline in between

head 2005.csv | awk -F, '{print $17"\n"$18}'

We can pipe the results of an awk statement to other commands, for instance,

head 2005.csv | awk -F, '{print $17"\n"$18}' | sort | uniq -c | sort -n

Now we can find all of the origin and destination airports, all at once, grouped together:

cat 2005.csv | awk -F, '{print $17"\n"$18}' | sort | uniq -c | sort -n

We can even remove the headed by removing any lines that contain the word "Origin"

cat 2005.csv | awk -F, '{print $17"\n"$18}' | grep -v Origin | sort | uniq -c | sort -n


One last example: We can add the mileage (distance in miles) of

all flights that depart from each airport. We use the airports as the indices!

head 2005.csv | awk -F, '{mileage[$17] = mileage[$17] + $19} END{for (keys in mileage){ print mileage[keys], keys } }' | sort -n