Should I always use GAWK over AWK?

I see all AWK features are included in GAWK, besides using a system that doesn't have GAWK installed, is there a good reason why I should use AWK against GAWK? Does AWK have better performance over GAWK?


source to share

3 answers


can refer to many things. There's awk

and there are many different implementations, one of which is gawk


Not using implementation-specific functions means that you have a high probability that your code will work unchanged in other implementations of awk



, being one of the awk

-language implementations , claims to conform to the awk

-the-standard, adding some additional functionality.

$ man awk
   Gawk is the GNU Project implementation of the AWK programming
   language.  It conforms to the definition of the language in the
   POSIX 1003.1 Standard.  This version in turn is  based  on  the
   description in The AWK Programming Language, by Aho, Kernighan,
   and Weinberger.  Gawk provides the additional features found in
   the current version of Brian Kernighan awk and  a  number  of
   GNU-specific extensions.


As far as speed is concerned, using gawk

as "plain" awk

shouldn't matter - often, when gawk

set, awk

will just be a symbolic link to gawk

, which means they'll be exactly the same program.

However, using gawk

-specific functions will mean that you will be blocked for that particular implementation - so if (hypothetically) you find a faster implementation, you probably have to adapt your script instead of just replacing the binary. (There are implementations that are faster, but I don't know, as I've never needed to run scripts awk


Personally, I tend to stick with "simple" awk

and not use gawk

-specific functions, but if you don't care about switching to a different implementation, using extensions gawk

can make your script easier to write and save you time to do so.



Currently, the most common AWK version is gawk, and perhaps the second most common is mawk, at least because the AWK system is on debian.

To quote the conclusion apt-cache show mawk

Mawk is smaller and much faster than gawk. It has some compilation times like NF = 32767 and buffer sprintf = 1020.

There are more well thought out extensions on the gawk side and I think better error management and better error reporting, which are a real bonus when debugging a complex script and might be a good reason to use gawk even if you are not interested in its extensions.

On the other hand, if you have a debugged script, if you don't need a particular extension, if you can live with mawk's built-in constraints (which are a lot of ifs), and you want to squeeze the last bit of performance without going out of AWK comfort, then mawk is way.



Assuming "AWK" means any awk that is not gawk - No. Always use gawk if at all possible. If it is not on your system, install it.



All Articles