(gawk.info.gz) Assignment Ops
(gawk.info.gz) Increment Ops
5.7 Assignment Expressions
An "assignment" is an expression that stores a (usually different)
value into a variable. For example, let's assign the value one to the
z = 1
After this expression is executed, the variable `z' has the value
one. Whatever old value `z' had before the assignment is forgotten.
Assignments can also store string values. For example, the
following stores the value `"this food is good"' in the variable
thing = "food"
predicate = "good"
message = "this " thing " is " predicate
This also illustrates string concatenation. The `=' sign is called an
"assignment operator". It is the simplest assignment operator because
the value of the righthand operand is stored unchanged. Most operators
(addition, concatenation, and so on) have no effect except to compute a
value. If the value isn't used, there's no reason to use the operator.
An assignment operator is different; it does produce a value, but even
if you ignore it, the assignment still makes itself felt through the
alteration of the variable. We call this a "side effect".
Variables::); it can also be a field ( Changing Fields) or an
array element ( Arrays). These are all called "lvalues", which
means they can appear on the lefthand side of an assignment operator.
The righthand operand may be any expression; it produces the new value
that the assignment stores in the specified variable, field, or array
element. (Such values are called "rvalues".)
It is important to note that variables do _not_ have permanent types.
A variable's type is simply the type of whatever value it happens to
hold at the moment. In the following program fragment, the variable
`foo' has a numeric value at first, and a string value later on:
foo = 1
foo = "bar"
When the second assignment gives `foo' a string value, the fact that it
previously had a numeric value is forgotten.
String values that do not begin with a digit have a numeric value of
zero. After executing the following code, the value of `foo' is five:
foo = "a string"
foo = foo + 5
NOTE: Using a variable as a number and then later as a string can
be confusing and is poor programming style. The previous two
examples illustrate how `awk' works, _not_ how you should write
An assignment is an expression, so it has a value--the same value
that is assigned. Thus, `z = 1' is an expression with the value one.
One consequence of this is that you can write multiple assignments
together, such as:
x = y = z = 5
This example stores the value five in all three variables (`x', `y',
and `z'). It does so because the value of `z = 5', which is five, is
stored into `y' and then the value of `y = z = 5', which is five, is
stored into `x'.
Assignments may be used anywhere an expression is called for. For
example, it is valid to write `x != (y = 1)' to set `y' to one, and
then test whether `x' equals one. But this style tends to make
programs hard to read; such nesting of assignments should be avoided,
except perhaps in a one-shot program.
Aside from `=', there are several other assignment operators that do
arithmetic with the old value of the variable. For example, the
operator `+=' computes a new value by adding the righthand value to the
old value of the variable. Thus, the following assignment adds five to
the value of `foo':
foo += 5
This is equivalent to the following:
foo = foo + 5
Use whichever makes the meaning of your program clearer.
There are situations where using `+=' (or any assignment operator)
is _not_ the same as simply repeating the lefthand operand in the
righthand expression. For example:
# Thanks to Pat Rankin for this example
foo[rand()] += 5
for (x in foo)
print x, foo[x]
bar[rand()] = bar[rand()] + 5
for (x in bar)
print x, bar[x]
The indices of `bar' are practically guaranteed to be different, because
`rand' returns different values each time it is called. (Arrays and
the `rand' function haven't been covered yet. Arrays, and see
Numeric Functions, for more information). This example
illustrates an important fact about assignment operators: the lefthand
expression is only evaluated _once_. It is up to the implementation as
to which expression is evaluated first, the lefthand or the righthand.
Consider this example:
i = 1
a[i += 2] = i + 1
The value of `a' could be either two or four.
table-assign-ops lists the arithmetic assignment operators.
In each case, the righthand operand is an expression whose value is
converted to a number.
LVALUE `+=' INCREMENT Adds INCREMENT to the value of LVALUE.
LVALUE `-=' DECREMENT Subtracts DECREMENT from the value of LVALUE.
LVALUE `*=' Multiplies the value of LVALUE by COEFFICIENT.
LVALUE `/=' DIVISOR Divides the value of LVALUE by DIVISOR.
LVALUE `%=' MODULUS Sets LVALUE to its remainder by MODULUS.
LVALUE `^=' POWER
LVALUE `**=' POWER Raises LVALUE to the power POWER.
Table 5.2: Arithmetic Assignment Operators
NOTE: Only the `^=' operator is specified by POSIX. For maximum
portability, do not use the `**=' operator.
Advanced Notes: Syntactic Ambiguities Between `/=' and Regular Expressions
There is a syntactic ambiguity between the `/=' assignment operator and
regexp constants whose first character is an `='. (d.c.) This is most
notable in commercial `awk' versions. For example:
$ awk /==/ /dev/null
error--> awk: syntax error at source line 1
error--> context is
error--> >>> /= <<<
error--> awk: bailing out at source line 1
A workaround is:
awk '/[=]=/' /dev/null
`gawk' does not have this problem, nor do the other freely available
versions described in Other Versions.
(gawk.info.gz) Increment Ops
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