How to Get a Specific Line or Lines From a Big File? Hint: Use One Liner AWK

AWK One Liner to Get a Specific Line From a Huge Text FileIf you are working with a huge text file with millions of lines and want to know the content of a specific line, there are a few tricks you can play to get the line you want.  The naive approach of reading the file line by line (say in python) and keeping a count on the lines is very slow,  time consuming, and not convenient.

That is where the good old “AWK” (or SED) comes in.   AWK is created to deal with text files before the Perl or Python scripting era.  The name AWK is after the first letters AWK’s creators Alfred AhoPeter Weinberger, and Brian Kernighan.

Extracting any specific line of interest is just a line of code using AWK from the terminal, if you know the line number or a specific pattern unique to the line. Let us say you want the line “lineNumber=23482364” from a huge text file “myHugeTextFile.txt”, the awk script to get the line and display on the terminal is

awk ‘NR==lineNumber’ myHugeTextFile.txt

As you can easily see, the above awk script can be modified to make it do more things. For example, if you wanted to get all lines between a range of line numbers, the awk script can be modified by adding more conditions as

awk ‘NR>=lineNumber1 && NR <= lineNumber2’  myHugeTextFile.txt