The Unix Programming Environment

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Front cover of The Unix Programming Environment

The Unix Programming Environment, first published in 1984 by Prentice Hall, is a book written by Brian W. Kernighan and Rob Pike, both of Bell Labs and considered an important and early document of the Unix operating system.

Unix philosophy[edit]

The book is perhaps most valuable for its exposition of the Unix philosophy of small cooperating tools with standardized inputs and outputs. It is this philosophy, and the architecture based on it, that has allowed open source projects to be assembled into larger systems such as Linux, without explicit coordination between developers. Kernighan and Pike give a brief description of the Unix design and the Unix philosophy:[1]

Even though the UNIX system introduces a number of innovative programs and techniques, no single program or idea makes it work well. Instead, what makes it effective is the approach to programming, a philosophy of using the computer. Although that philosophy can't be written down in a single sentence, at its heart is the idea that the power of a system comes more from the relationships among programs than from the programs themselves. Many UNIX programs do quite trivial things in isolation, but, combined with other programs, become general and useful tools.

The authors further write that their goal for this book is "to communicate the UNIX programming philosophy."[2]

Content and topics[edit]

The book starts off with an introduction to Unix for beginners. Next, it goes into the basics of the file system and shell. The reader is led through topics ranging from the use of filters, to how to use C for programming robust Unix applications, and the basics of grep, sed, make, and awk. The book closes with a tutorial on making a programming language parser with yacc and how to use troff with ms and mm to format documents, the preprocessors tbl, eqn, and pic, and making man pages with the man macro set. The appendices cover the ed editor and the abovementioned programming language, named hoc, which stands for "high-order calculator".

C programming style[edit]

The book was written before ANSI C was first drafted, therefore the programs in the book are nonstandard and follow K&R style. However, the source code available on the book's website has been updated for ANSI C conformance (but uses the implicit int rule, which is disallowed in C99).

Editions[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Kernighan, Brian W. Pike, Rob. The UNIX Programming Environment. 1984. viii
  2. ^ Kernighan, Brian W. Pike, Rob. The UNIX Programming Environment. 1984. viii