AWK command in Linux/Unix

Filed Under: UNIX/Linux

AWK is suitable for pattern search and processing. The script runs to search one or more files to identify matching patterns and if the said patterns perform specific tasks. In this guide, we take a look into AWK Linux command and see what it can do.

What Operations can AWK do?

  • Scanning files line by line
  • Splitting each input line into fields
  • Comparing input lines and fields to patterns
  • Performing specified actions on matching lines

AWK Command Usefulness

  • Changing data files
  • Producing formatted reports

Programming Concepts for awk command

  • Format output lines
  • Conditional and loops
  • Arithmetic and string operations

AWK Syntax

$ awk options 'selection _criteria {action }' input-file > output-file

To demonstrate more about AWK usage, we are going to use the text file called file.txt

awk command example file

1st column => Item,
2nd column => Model
3rd column => Country
4th column => Cost

Awk Command Examples

Printing specific columns

To print the 2nd and 3rd columns, execute the command below.

$ awk '{print $2 "\t" $3}' file.txt


Awk Print Second And Third Column

Printing all lines in a file

If you wish to list all the lines and columns in a file, execute

$ awk ' {print $0}' file.txt


Awk Print All Lines

Printing all lines that match a specific pattern

if you want to print lines that match a certain pattern, the syntax is as shown

$ awk '/variable_to_be_matched/ {print $0}' file.txt

For instance, to match all entries with the letter ‘o’, the syntax will be

$ awk '/o/ {print $0}' file.txt


awk linux command matching all lines

To match all entries with the letter ‘e’

$ awk '/e/ {print $0}' file.txt


Awk Matching Lines With E

Printing columns that match a specific pattern

When AWK locates a pattern match, the command will execute the whole record. You can change the default by issuing an instruction to display only certain fields.

For example:

$ awk '/a/ {print $3 "\t" $4}' file.txt

The above command prints the 3rd and 4th columns where the letter ‘a’ appears in either of the columns


Awk Matching Column

Counting and Printing Matched Pattern

You can use AWK to count and print the number of lines for every pattern match. For example, the command below counts the number of instances a matching pattern appears

$ awk '/a/{++cnt} END {print "Count = ", cnt}' file.txt


Count Columns Matching a pattern

Print Lines with More or less than a No. of Characters

AWK has a built-in length function that returns the length of the string. From the command $0 variable stores the entire line and in the absence of a body block, the default action is taken, i.e., the print action. Therefore, in our text file, if a line has more than 18 characters, then the comparison results true, and the line is printed as shown below.

$ awk 'length($0) > 20' file.txt


Print Lines With More Or Less Characters

Saving output of AWK to a different file

If you wish to save the output of your results, use the > redirection operator. For example

$ awk '/a/ {print $3 "\t" $4}' file.txt > Output.txt

You can verify the results using the cat command as shown below

$ cat output.txt

Awk Redirect Output


AWK is another simple programming script that you can use to manipulate text in documents or perform specific functions. The shared commands are a few or the many you are yet to know or come across.


  1. sima chavda says:

    I want to replace the strings “” with in all files inside /etc directory. How can i achieve this with awk command?

    Thanks in advance.

    1. prasad says:

      Hi, I guess with the awk command we can’t replace but we can find it. But by using sed we can find and replace the strings. Here is the sed command that replaces the to Here output.txt is the file where data is present (you can use your directory)
      sed -i 's,,,g' output.txt

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