Programming Books

Best Free Books to Learn about Awk

Last Updated on May 22, 2022

Awk is a versatile programming language designed for pattern scanning and processing language and often used as a data extraction and reporting tool. It’s an excellent filter and report writer. It’s a standard feature of most Unix-like operating systems.

Awk is small, fast, simple, and has a clean comprehensible C-like input language. It has robust programming constructs including if/else, while, do/while and for C-style and array iteration.

The name awk comes from the initials of its designers: Alfred V. Aho, Peter J. Weinberger, and Brian W. Kernighan. The original version of awk was written in 1977 at AT&T Bell Laboratories.

The language is suited for:

  • Tallying information from text files and creating reports from the results.
  • Adding additional functions to text editors like “vi”.
  • Translating files from one format to another.
  • Creating small databases.
  • Performing mathematical operations on files of numeric data.

There’s a limited range of good free books to learn about programming in Awk. Here’s my recommended texts.

1. GAWK: Effective AWK Programming Edition 5.0 by Arnold D. Robbins

Effective awk ProgrammingThis practical guide serves as both a reference and tutorial for POSIX-standard awk and for the GNU implementation, called gawk. This book is useful for novices and awk experts alike.

GAWK: Effective AWK Programming explains both how to write programs in the awk language and how to run the awk utility. The term “awk program” refers to software written in the awk programming language.

The book serves as both a tutorial and reference guide. The first part of the book describes the awk language and the gawk program in detail. The second part of the book shows you how to use awk and gawk to solve problems. The third part concentrates on features specific to gawk. The final part of the book provides appendices, and a useful Glossary. There’s a wealth of information in the book.

Read the 5th edition in PDF format at

Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify GAWK: Effective AWK Programming Edition under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.3.

The book’s cover relates to the 4th edition published by O’Reilly.

2. Awk Tutorial by Bruce Barnett

Awk TutorialAwk Tutorial discusses Awk, a cornerstone of UNIX shell programming.

Chapters cover:

  • Executing an Awk script.
  • Which shell to use with Awk?
  • Dynamic Variables.
  • Arithmetic Expressions.
  • Summary of Awk Commands.
  • Awk Built-in Variables: FS, OFS, NF, NR, RS, ORS, and FILENAME.
  • Associative Arrays.
  • Picture Perfect PRINTF Output.
  • Flow Control with next and exit.
  • Awk Numerical Functions.
  • String Functions.
  • User Defined Functions.
  • Awk patterns.
  • Formatting Awk programs.

Read the tutorial at

3. An Awk Primer by Wikibooks

Awk PrimerAn Awk Primer is a useful guide which explains Awk’s syntax in some depth covering search patterns, numbers and strings, variables, arrays, operations, standard functions, user-defined functions, control structures, and more.

There’s also some example Awk program files, and a quick reference guide.

Read the book online at There’s a printable version available here.

Permission is granted to copy, distribute, and/or modify An Awk Primer under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License.

All books in this series:

Free Programming Books
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AgdaDependently typed functional language based on intuitionistic Type Theory
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AssemblyAs close to writing machine code without writing in pure hexadecimal
AwkVersatile language designed for pattern scanning and processing language
BashShell and command language; popular both as a shell and a scripting language
BASICBeginner’s All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code
CGeneral-purpose, procedural, portable, high-level language
C++General-purpose, portable, free-form, multi-paradigm language
C#Combines the power and flexibility of C++ with the simplicity of Visual Basic
ClojureDialect of the Lisp programming language
ClojureScriptCompiler for Clojure that targets JavaScript
COBOLCommon Business-Oriented Language
CoffeeScriptTranscompiles into JavaScript inspired by Ruby, Python and Haskell
CoqDependently typed language similar to Agda, Idris, F* and others
CrystalGeneral-purpose, concurrent, multi-paradigm, object-oriented language
CSSCSS (Cascading Style Sheets) specifies a web page’s appearance
DGeneral-purpose systems programming language with a C-like syntax
DartClient-optimized language for fast apps on multiple platforms
DylanMulti-paradigm language supporting functional and object-oriented coding
ECMAScriptBest known as the language embedded in web browsers
EiffelObject-oriented language designed by Bertrand Meyer
ElixirRelatively new functional language running on the Erlang virtual machine
ErlangGeneral-purpose, concurrent, declarative, functional language
F#Uses functional, imperative, and object-oriented programming methods
FactorDynamic stack-based programming language
ForthImperative stack-based programming language
FortranThe first high-level language, using the first compiler
GoCompiled, statically typed programming language
GroovyPowerful, optionally typed and dynamic language
HaskellStandardized, general-purpose, polymorphically, statically typed language
HTMLHyperText Markup Language
IconWide variety of features for processing and presenting symbolic data
JArray programming language based primarily on APL
JavaGeneral-purpose, concurrent, class-based, object-oriented, high-level language
JavaScriptInterpreted, prototype-based, scripting language
JuliaHigh-level, high-performance language for technical computing
KotlinMore modern version of Java
LabVIEWDesigned to enable domain experts to build power systems quickly
LaTeXProfessional document preparation system and document markup language
LispUnique features - excellent to study programming constructs
LogoDialect of Lisp that features interactivity, modularity, extensibility
LuaDesigned as an embeddable scripting language
MarkdownPlain text formatting syntax designed to be easy-to-read and easy-to-write
Objective-CObject-oriented language that adds Smalltalk-style messaging to C
OCamlThe main implementation of the Caml language
PascalImperative and procedural language designed in the late 1960s
PerlHigh-level, general-purpose, interpreted, scripting, dynamic language
PHPPHP has been at the helm of the web for many years
PostScriptInterpreted, stack-based and Turing complete language
PrologA general purpose, declarative, logic programming language
PureScriptSmall strongly, statically typed language compiling to JavaScript
PythonGeneral-purpose, structured, powerful language
QMLHierarchical declarative language for user interface layout - JSON-like syntax
RDe facto standard among statisticians and data analysts
RacketGeneral-purpose, object-oriented, multi-paradigm, functional language
RakuMember of the Perl family of programming languages
RubyGeneral purpose, scripting, structured, flexible, fully object-oriented language
RustIdeal for systems, embedded, and other performance critical code
ScalaModern, object-functional, multi-paradigm, Java-based language
SchemeA general-purpose, functional language descended from Lisp and Algol
ScratchVisual programming language designed for 8-16 year-old children
SQLAccess and manipulate data held in a relational database management system
Standard MLGeneral-purpose functional language characterized as "Lisp with types"
SwiftPowerful and intuitive general-purpose programming language
TclDynamic language based on concepts of Lisp, C, and Unix shells
TeXMarkup and programming language - create professional quality typeset text
TypeScriptStrict syntactical superset of JavaScript adding optional static typing
ValaObject-oriented language, syntactically similar to C#
VHDLHardware description language used in electronic design automation
VimLPowerful scripting language of the Vim editor
XMLRules for defining semantic tags describing structure ad meaning
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