Go forward to Index.
Go backward to Notes.
Go up to Top.

Glossary
********

Action
     A series of `awk' statements attached to a rule.  If the rule's
     pattern matches an input record, the `awk' language executes the
     rule's action.  Actions are always enclosed in curly braces.
     See Overview of Actions: Actions.

Amazing `awk' Assembler
     Henry Spencer at the University of Toronto wrote a retargetable
     assembler completely as `awk' scripts.  It is thousands of lines
     long, including machine descriptions for several 8-bit
     microcomputers.  It is a good example of a program that would have
     been better written in another language.

ANSI
     The American National Standards Institute.  This organization
     produces many standards, among them the standard for the C
     programming language.

Assignment
     An `awk' expression that changes the value of some `awk' variable
     or data object.  An object that you can assign to is called an
     "lvalue".  See Assignment Expressions: Assignment Ops.

`awk' Language
     The language in which `awk' programs are written.

`awk' Program
     An `awk' program consists of a series of "patterns" and "actions",
     collectively known as "rules".  For each input record given to the
     program, the program's rules are all processed in turn.  `awk'
     programs may also contain function definitions.

`awk' Script
     Another name for an `awk' program.

Built-in Function
     The `awk' language provides built-in functions that perform various
     numerical, time stamp related, and string computations.  Examples
     are `sqrt' (for the square root of a number) and `substr' (for a
     substring of a string).  See Built-in Functions: Built-in.

Built-in Variable
     `ARGC', `ARGIND', `ARGV', `CONVFMT', `ENVIRON', `ERRNO',
     `FIELDWIDTHS', `FILENAME', `FNR', `FS', `IGNORECASE', `NF', `NR',
     `OFMT', `OFS', `ORS', `RLENGTH', `RSTART', `RS', and `SUBSEP', are
     the variables that have special meaning to `awk'.  Changing some
     of them affects `awk''s running environment.  *Note Built-in
     Variables::.

Braces
     See "Curly Braces."

C
     The system programming language that most GNU software is written
     in.  The `awk' programming language has C-like syntax, and this
     manual points out similarities between `awk' and C when
     appropriate.

CHEM
     A preprocessor for `pic' that reads descriptions of molecules and
     produces `pic' input for drawing them.  It was written by Brian
     Kernighan, and is available from `netlib@research.att.com'.

Compound Statement
     A series of `awk' statements, enclosed in curly braces.  Compound
     statements may be nested.  See Control Statements in Actions: Statements.

Concatenation
     Concatenating two strings means sticking them together, one after
     another, giving a new string.  For example, the string `foo'
     concatenated with the string `bar' gives the string `foobar'.
     See String Concatenation: Concatenation.

Conditional Expression
     An expression using the `?:' ternary operator, such as `EXPR1 ?
     EXPR2 : EXPR3'.  The expression EXPR1 is evaluated; if the result
     is true, the value of the whole expression is the value of EXPR2
     otherwise the value is EXPR3.  In either case, only one of EXPR2
     and EXPR3 is evaluated.  See Conditional Expressions: Conditional Exp.

Constant Regular Expression
     A constant regular expression is a regular expression written
     within slashes, such as `/foo/'.  This regular expression is chosen
     when you write the `awk' program, and cannot be changed doing its
     execution.  See How to Use Regular Expressions: Regexp Usage.

Comparison Expression
     A relation that is either true or false, such as `(a < b)'.
     Comparison expressions are used in `if', `while', and `for'
     statements, and in patterns to select which input records to
     process.  See Comparison Expressions: Comparison Ops.

Curly Braces
     The characters `{' and `}'.  Curly braces are used in `awk' for
     delimiting actions, compound statements, and function bodies.

Data Objects
     These are numbers and strings of characters.  Numbers are
     converted into strings and vice versa, as needed.  
See Conversion of Strings and Numbers: Conversion.

Dynamic Regular Expression
     A dynamic regular expression is a regular expression written as an
     ordinary expression.  It could be a string constant, such as
     `"foo"', but it may also be an expression whose value may vary.
     See How to Use Regular Expressions: Regexp Usage.

Escape Sequences
     A special sequence of characters used for describing nonprinting
     characters, such as `\n' for newline, or `\033' for the ASCII ESC
     (escape) character.  See Constant Expressions: Constants.

Field
     When `awk' reads an input record, it splits the record into pieces
     separated by whitespace (or by a separator regexp which you can
     change by setting the built-in variable `FS').  Such pieces are
     called fields.  If the pieces are of fixed length, you can use the
     built-in variable `FIELDWIDTHS' to describe their lengths.  
See How Input is Split into Records: Records.

Format
     Format strings are used to control the appearance of output in the
     `printf' statement.  Also, data conversions from numbers to strings
     are controlled by the format string contained in the built-in
     variable `CONVFMT'.  See Format-Control Letters: Control Letters.

Function
     A specialized group of statements often used to encapsulate general
     or program-specific tasks.  `awk' has a number of built-in
     functions, and also allows you to define your own.  *Note Built-in
     Functions: Built-in.  Also, see See User-defined Functions: User-defined.

`gawk'
     The GNU implementation of `awk'.

GNU
     "GNU's not Unix".  An on-going project of the Free Software
     Foundation to create a complete, freely distributable,
     POSIX-compliant computing environment.

Input Record
     A single chunk of data read in by `awk'.  Usually, an `awk' input
     record consists of one line of text.  *Note How Input is Split
     into Records: Records.

Keyword
     In the `awk' language, a keyword is a word that has special
     meaning.  Keywords are reserved and may not be used as variable
     names.

     `awk''s keywords are: `if', `else', `while', `do...while', `for',
     `for...in', `break', `continue', `delete', `next', `function',
     `func', and `exit'.

Lvalue
     An expression that can appear on the left side of an assignment
     operator.  In most languages, lvalues can be variables or array
     elements.  In `awk', a field designator can also be used as an
     lvalue.

Number
     A numeric valued data object.  The `gawk' implementation uses
     double precision floating point to represent numbers.

Pattern
     Patterns tell `awk' which input records are interesting to which
     rules.

     A pattern is an arbitrary conditional expression against which
     input is tested.  If the condition is satisfied, the pattern is
     said to "match" the input record.  A typical pattern might compare
     the input record against a regular expression.  See Patterns.

POSIX
     The name for a series of standards being developed by the IEEE
     that specify a Portable Operating System interface.  The "IX"
     denotes the Unix heritage of these standards.  The main standard
     of interest for `awk' users is P1003.2, the Command Language and
     Utilities standard.

Range (of input lines)
     A sequence of consecutive lines from the input file.  A pattern
     can specify ranges of input lines for `awk' to process, or it can
     specify single lines.  See Patterns.

Recursion
     When a function calls itself, either directly or indirectly.  If
     this isn't clear, refer to the entry for "recursion."

Redirection
     Redirection means performing input from other than the standard
     input stream, or output to other than the standard output stream.

     You can redirect the output of the `print' and `printf' statements
     to a file or a system command, using the `>', `>>', and `|'
     operators.  You can redirect input to the `getline' statement using
     the `<' and `|' operators.  *Note Redirecting Output of `print'
     and `printf': Redirection.

Regular Expression
     See "regexp."

Regexp
     Short for "regular expression".  A regexp is a pattern that
     denotes a set of strings, possibly an infinite set.  For example,
     the regexp `R.*xp' matches any string starting with the letter `R'
     and ending with the letters `xp'.  In `awk', regexps are used in
     patterns and in conditional expressions.  Regexps may contain
     escape sequences.  See Regular Expressions as Patterns: Regexp.

Rule
     A segment of an `awk' program, that specifies how to process single
     input records.  A rule consists of a "pattern" and an "action".
     `awk' reads an input record; then, for each rule, if the input
     record satisfies the rule's pattern, `awk' executes the rule's
     action.  Otherwise, the rule does nothing for that input record.

Side Effect
     A side effect occurs when an expression has an effect aside from
     merely producing a value.  Assignment expressions, increment
     expressions and function calls have side effects.  
See Assignment Expressions: Assignment Ops.

Special File
     A file name interpreted internally by `gawk', instead of being
     handed directly to the underlying operating system.  For example,
     `/dev/stdin'.  See Standard I/O Streams: Special Files.

Stream Editor
     A program that reads records from an input stream and processes
     them one or more at a time.  This is in contrast with batch
     programs, which may expect to read their input files in entirety
     before starting to do anything, and with interactive programs,
     which require input from the user.

String
     A datum consisting of a sequence of characters, such as `I am a
     string'.  Constant strings are written with double-quotes in the
     `awk' language, and may contain escape sequences.  *Note Constant
     Expressions: Constants.

Whitespace
     A sequence of blank or tab characters occurring inside an input
     record or a string.