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I am having trouble understanding or explaining why the following expression fails in gawk 3.1.x and yet works in gawk 4.1.x:

(Minimum working example)

echo ";#ADCDE#" | awk '/#.{5}#$/' -> produces a match in gawk 4.1.x, does not produce a match in gawk 3.1.x

echo ";#ADCDE#" | awk '/#.*#$/' -> produces a match in both

Did something change between gawk 3 and 4 in how regular expressions are handled? I didn't think the repetition construct {n} was new for regular expressions. The same behaviour happens if I change the dot (.) with a character class or [A-Z]

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1 Answer

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Adding --posix works in 3.1

echo ";#ADCDE#" | gawk --posix '/#.{5}#$/'

I have

awk --version
GNU Awk 3.1.6

From my man awk page

   r{n,m}     One  or two numbers inside braces denote an interval expres‐
              sion.  If there is one number in the braces,  the  preceding
              regular  expression r is repeated n times.  If there are two
              numbers separated by a comma, r is repeated n  to  m  times.
              If  there  is  one  number  followed  by  a comma, then r is
              repeated at least n times.
              Interval expressions are only available if either --posix or
              --re-interval is specified on the command line.
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Indeed works for me as well. The odd part is you don't need the --posix switch for gawk 4 but the man page reads the same. Thoughts? –  user153222 Feb 24 at 20:29
and the man page states that intervals are only available with --posix, but my example is not an interval.... is this a gawk bug? –  user153222 Feb 24 at 20:37
I haven't been following discussions regarding this, but it is probably mentioned in the Changelog for the library which does the regex matching. I noticed earlier in the man page, that it mentions it follows egreps regex's ... –  X Tian Feb 24 at 20:37
@user153222 It says "one or two numbers inside {} denote an interval". –  X Tian Feb 24 at 20:40
I found this comment in the gawk 4.0.0 changelog: 8. Interval expressions are now part of default regular expressions for GNU Awk syntax. link I guess that settles it. –  user153222 Feb 24 at 21:07
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