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Sample Program

   The following example is a complete `awk' program, which prints the
number of occurrences of each word in its input.  It illustrates the
associative nature of `awk' arrays by using strings as subscripts.  It
also demonstrates the `for X in ARRAY' construction.  Finally, it shows
how `awk' can be used in conjunction with other utility programs to do
a useful task of some complexity with a minimum of effort.  Some
explanations follow the program listing.

     awk '
     # Print list of word frequencies
         for (i = 1; i <= NF; i++)
     END {
         for (word in freq)
             printf "%s\t%d\n", word, freq[word]

   The first thing to notice about this program is that it has two
rules.  The first rule, because it has an empty pattern, is executed on
every line of the input.  It uses `awk''s field-accessing mechanism
(see Examining Fields: Fields.) to pick out the individual words from
the line, and the built-in variable `NF' (see Built-in Variables.)
to know how many fields are available.

   For each input word, an element of the array `freq' is incremented to
reflect that the word has been seen an additional time.

   The second rule, because it has the pattern `END', is not executed
until the input has been exhausted.  It prints out the contents of the
`freq' table that has been built up inside the first action.

   Note that this program has several problems that would prevent it
from being useful by itself on real text files:

   * Words are detected using the `awk' convention that fields are
     separated by whitespace and that other characters in the input
     (except newlines) don't have any special meaning to `awk'.  This
     means that punctuation characters count as part of words.

   * The `awk' language considers upper and lower case characters to be
     distinct.  Therefore, `foo' and `Foo' are not treated by this
     program as the same word.  This is undesirable since in normal
     text, words are capitalized if they begin sentences, and a
     frequency analyzer should not be sensitive to that.

   * The output does not come out in any useful order.  You're more
     likely to be interested in which words occur most frequently, or
     having an alphabetized table of how frequently each word occurs.

   The way to solve these problems is to use some of the more advanced
features of the `awk' language.  First, we use `tolower' to remove case
distinctions.  Next, we use `gsub' to remove punctuation characters.
Finally, we use the system `sort' utility to process the output of the
`awk' script.  First, here is the new version of the program:

     awk '
     # Print list of word frequencies
         $0 = tolower($0)    # remove case distinctions
         gsub(/[^a-z0-9_ \t]/, "", $0)  # remove punctuation
         for (i = 1; i <= NF; i++)
     END {
         for (word in freq)
             printf "%s\t%d\n", word, freq[word]

   Assuming we have saved this program in a file named `frequency.awk',
and that the data is in `file1', the following pipeline

     awk -f frequency.awk file1 | sort +1 -nr

produces a table of the words appearing in `file1' in order of
decreasing frequency.

   The `awk' program suitably massages the data and produces a word
frequency table, which is not ordered.

   The `awk' script's output is then sorted by the `sort' command and
printed on the terminal.  The options given to `sort' in this example
specify to sort using the second field of each input line (skipping one
field), that the sort keys should be treated as numeric quantities
(otherwise `15' would come before `5'), and that the sorting should be
done in descending (reverse) order.

   We could have even done the `sort' from within the program, by
changing the `END' action to:

     END {
         sort = "sort +1 -nr"
         for (word in freq)
             printf "%s\t%d\n", word, freq[word] | sort

   See the general operating system documentation for more information
on how to use the `sort' command.