Everything About Using ‘awk’ to ‘sum’ Any Values

In Linux, awk is a powerful tool for text processing which can be used to perform a wide range of operations on file contents, including summing values in a column. Here’s how you can use awk to sum the values in a specific column of a text file:

Basic Example

Suppose you have a file named data.txt with the following content, and you want to sum the values in the second column:

A 10
B 20
C 30
D 40

You can sum the values in the second column using awk with the following command:

awk '{sum += $2} END {print sum}' data.txt

In this command:

  • {sum += $2}: For each line, add the value of the second column ($2) to the sum variable.
  • END {print sum}: After processing all lines, print the final sum.


  • awk reads the input file line by line.
  • $2 refers to the value in the second column (fields in awk are by default separated by whitespace).
  • The sum variable accumulates the values of the second column. It’s not necessary to initialize sum as awk initializes it to zero by default.
  • The END block is executed after all lines are processed.

Advanced Usage

Summing with Conditions

If you want to sum the values under certain conditions, awk can handle that as well. For example, to sum the values in the second column only if the first column is B or C:

awk '$1 ~ /B|C/ {sum += $2} END {print sum}' data.txt

Different Field Separators

If your file uses a separator other than whitespace (for example, commas in a CSV file), you can specify it with the -F option:

awk -F, '{sum += $2} END {print sum}' data.csv

Summing Multiple Columns

You can also sum multiple columns simultaneously. For example, to sum both the second and third columns:

awk '{sum1 += $2; sum2 += $3} END {print "Sum of column 2:", sum1, "Sum of column 3:", sum2}' data.txt

awk is a very versatile tool and can be used for a variety of text processing tasks in Linux. The examples above demonstrate some common use cases for summing column values.

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