The AWK utility is an interpreted programming language typically used as a data extraction and reporting tool. It is a standard feature of most Unix-like operating systems.(Source: Wikipedia)

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  • Most Commonly used Awk by Bioinformatician

Most Commonly used Awk by Bioinformatician


Awk is a programming language that is specifically designed for quickly manipulating space delimited data. Although you can achieve all its functionality with Perl, awk is simpler in many practical cases.

Why awk? You can replace a pipeline of 'stuff | grep | sed | cut...' with a single call to awk. For a simple script, most of the timelag is in loading these apps into memory, and it's much faster to do it all with one. This is ideal for something like an openbox pipe menu where you want to generate something on the fly. You can use awk to make a neat one-liner for some quick job in the terminal, or build an awk section into a shell script. You can find a lot of online tutorials, but here I will only show a few examples which cover most of bioinformatician daily uses of awk.

choose rows where column 3 is larger than column 5:

awk '$3>$5' input.txt > output.txt

extract column 2,4,5:

awk '{print $2,$4,$5}' input.txt > output.txt

awk 'BEGIN{OFS="\t"}{print $2,$4,$5}' input.txt

show rows between 20th and 80th:

awk 'NR>=20&&NR<=80' input.txt > output.txt

calculate the average of column 2:

awk '{x+=$2}END{print x/NR}' input.txt

regex (egrep):

awk '/^test[0-9]+/' input.txt

calculate the sum of column 2 and 3 and put it at the end of a row or replace the first column:

awk '{print $0,$2+$3}' input.txt

awk '{$1=$2+$3;print}' input.txt

join two files on column 1:

awk 'BEGIN{while((getline<"file1.txt")>0)l[$1]=$0}$1 in l{print $0"\t"l[$1]}' file2.txt > output.txt

count number of occurrence of column 2 (uniq -c):

awk '{l[$2]++}END{for (x in l) print x,l[x]}' input.txt

apply "uniq" on column 2, only printing the first occurrence (uniq):

awk '!($2 in l){print;l[$2]=1}' input.txt

count different words (wc):

awk '{for(i=1;i!=NF;++i)c[$i]++}END{for (x in c) print x,c[x]}' input.txt

deal with simple CSV:

awk -F, '{print $1,$2}'

substitution (sed is simpler in this case):

awk '{sub(/test/, "no", $0);print}' input.txt


OK now here's where to read this stuff properly explained. roll

Two thorough tutorials:

A famous list of useful one-liners - though they're short, many are quite tricky:

And some nice explanations of those one-liners. After reading this you'll have a pretty good grasp! … -part-one/ … -pitfalls/