Is there a way other than using the airport command line utility to get the list of available wifi networks programmatically (for consumption by an application)? Here is the context:

I have a command line application for managing wifi networks (https://github.com/keithrbennett/wifiwand, gem install wifi-wand) in which I get the list of available wifi networks using airport -s.

Unfortunately, because the network names are presented right aligned, there is no way to determine whether or not, or how many, leading spaces the name contains. There is a -x option to output the data in XML format, but in Ruby, parsing XML usually requires installing the nokogiri gem, which is legendarily problematic, and I don't want to impose that on my users. So I go through this weird and less than 100% reliable process to return the correct results in most but not all cases.

What are my other options, if any, for getting this information?

1 Answer 1


You could (mis)use awk to filter the result:

airport -s -x| awk '          { if (catch == 1) { print; catch=0 } }
                   /SSID_STR/ { catch=1 }'
<string>UPC Wi-Free</string>
<string>The Cloud</string>
<string>The Cloud</string>

Not very nice, but does the job :-)

OTOH, a SSID can be anything, it doesn't even need to be printable (see Is there a standard that defines what is a valid SSID and password?). So any attempt to handle SSID in text-based utilities will likely fail sooner or later.

  • Thank you, this is great! Is there a reason for all the white space in the command? I removed it and it seems to work fine: airport -s -x | awk '{ if (catch == 1) { print; catch=0 } } /SSID_STR/ { catch=1 }'. Mar 26, 2018 at 9:39
  • @KeithBennett No technical reason, it's just easier to read (at least for me). The ordering is important though, you can't switch the two lines.
    – nohillside
    Mar 26, 2018 at 9:51
  • Thanks. I'd like give you attribution in the source code. Would this be ok, and if so, how? (Twitter handle, etc.?) Mar 26, 2018 at 11:26
  • @KeithBennett A link to my user profile on AD? Or take the Twitter handle from the profile page :-)
    – nohillside
    Mar 26, 2018 at 12:07

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