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Any awk variable can be set by including a variable assignment among the arguments on the command line when awk is invoked (see section Other Command-Line Arguments). Such an assignment has the following form:


With it, a variable is set either at the beginning of the awk run or in between input files. When the assignment is preceded with the ‘-v’ option, as in the following:

-v variable=text

the variable is set at the very beginning, even before the BEGIN rules execute. The ‘-v’ option and its assignment must precede all the file name arguments, as well as the program text. (See section Command-Line Options, for more information about the ‘-v’ option.) Otherwise, the variable assignment is performed at a time determined by its position among the input file arguments—after the processing of the preceding input file argument. For example:

awk '{ print $n }' n=4 inventory-shipped n=2 BBS-list

prints the value of field number n for all input records. Before the first file is read, the command line sets the variable n equal to four. This causes the fourth field to be printed in lines from ‘inventory-shipped’. After the first file has finished, but before the second file is started, n is set to two, so that the second field is printed in lines from ‘BBS-list’:

$ awk '{ print $n }' n=4 inventory-shipped n=2 BBS-list
-| 15
-| 24
-| 555-5553
-| 555-3412

Command-line arguments are made available for explicit examination by the awk program in the ARGV array (see section Using ARGC and ARGV). awk processes the values of command-line assignments for escape sequences (see section Escape Sequences). (d.c.)

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