Unix Sed Tutorial: Advanced Sed Substitution Examples


Sed Substitution Delimiter

As we discussed in our previous post, we can use the different delimiters such as @ % | ; : in sed substitute command.
Let us first create path.txt file that will be used in all the Beispielen mentioned below.



Beispiel 1
sed @ delimiter: Substitute /opt/omni/lbin to /opt/tools/bin

When you substitute a path name which has ‘/’, you can use @ as a delimiter instead of ‘/’. In the sed Beispiel below, in the last line of the input file, /opt/omni/lbin was changed to /opt/tools/bin.



Beispiel 2
sed / delimiter: Substitute /opt/omni/lbin to /opt/tools/bin

When you should use ‘/’ in path name related substitution, you have to escape ‘/’ in the substitution data as shown below. In this sed Beispiel, the delimiter ‘/’ was escaped in the REGEXP and REPLACEMENT part.


Sed ‘&’ Get Matched String

The precise part of an input line on which the Regular Expression matches is represented by &, which can then be used in the replacement part.

Beispiel 1
sed & Usage: Substitute /usr/bin/ to /usr/bin/local


In the above Beispiel ‘&’ in the replacement part will replace with /usr/bin which is matched pattern and add it with /local. So in the output all the occurrance of /usr/bin will be replaced with /usr/bin/local

Beispiel 2
sed & Usage: Match the whole line

& replaces whatever matches with the given REGEXP.


In the above Beispiel regexp has “^.*$” which matches the whole line. Replacement part <<<&>>> writes the whole line with <<< and >>> in the beginning and end of the line respectively.

Grouping and Back-references in Sed

Grouping can be used in sed like normal regular expression. A group is opened with “\(” and closed with “\)”.Grouping can be used in combination with back-referencing.

Back-reference is the re-use of a part of a Regular Expression selected by grouping. Back-references in sed can be used in both a Regular Expression and in the replacement part of the substitute command.

Beispiel 1: Get only the first path in each line

/opt/omni/lbin >


In the above Beispiel, \(\/[^:]*\) matches the path available before first : comes. \1 replaces the first matched group.


Beispiel 2: Multigrouping

In the file path.txt change the order of field in the last line of the file.


In the above command $ specifies substitution to happen only for the last line.Output shows that the order of the path values in the last line has been reversed.

Beispiel 3: Get the list of usernames in /etc/passwd file

This sed Beispiel displays only the first field from the /etc/passwd file.

Beispiel 4: Parenthesize first character of each word

This sed Beispiel prints the first character of every word in paranthesis.

Beispiel 5: Commify the simple number.

Let us create file called numbers which has list of numbers. The below sed command Beispiel is used to commify the numbers till thousands.