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Home » From SED to Text Wizard: A Beginner’s Guide

From SED to Text Wizard: A Beginner’s Guide

  • Linux
  • 3 min read

Introduction

If you work with text files on the command line, chances are you’ve already heard of the sed command. It’s a powerful tool that allows you to perform complex text transformations in just a few keystrokes. Whether you’re looking to replace strings, delete lines, or extract specific patterns from a file, sed has got you covered.

Requirements and Dependencies

Sed is a command-line utility that is available on most Unix-like systems, including Linux and macOS. No additional installation is required – you can simply type sed in your terminal and start using it.

Use-Cases

There are countless ways to use sed, but here are a few common examples:

  • Replacing text: Suppose you want to replace all occurrences of the word “lazy” with “hardworking” in a file. You can use sed like this:
sed 's/lazy/hardworking/g' input.txt > output.txt
  • Deleting lines: Suppose you want to delete all lines in a file that contain the word “error”. You can use sed like this:
sed '/error/d' input.txt > output.txt
  • Extracting patterns: Suppose you want to extract all email addresses from a file. You can use sed like this:
sed -n 's/.*\([[:alnum:]_.-]\+@[[:alnum:]_.-]\+\.[[:alpha:].]\+\).*/\1/p' input.txt > output.txt

Here’s an example of how you can use sed to perform a text transformation on a website:

curl itvraag.nl | sed 's/question/answer/g'

This will fetch the contents of the website and replace all occurrences of the word “question” with “answer”.

Key Take-Aways

  • Sed is a command-line tool for performing text transformations
  • It can be used to replace, delete, and extract patterns from text files
  • It’s available on most Unix-like systems and doesn’t require any additional installation

Tips

  1. Use the i flag to edit a file in place, instead of writing to an output file
  2. Use the n flag to suppress automatic printing of pattern space
  3. Use the r flag to use extended regular expressions
  4. Use the \1, \2, etc. syntax to refer to capture groups in the replacement string
  5. Use the \l, \u, and \L syntax to convert case in the replacement string

Additional Resources

  • Use the man command to view the manual page for sed: man sed
  • Check out the GNU Sed documentation for more advanced usage examples

Challenge

Here’s a challenge to test your understanding of sed. Try to solve the following task using sed:

  • Given a file containing lines in the following format: “name:age:city”, extract only the names and print them one per line.

Here’s an example of how your solution might look:

sed -n 's/^\([^:]\+\):.*$/\1/p' input.txt > output.txt

Remember to use the -n flag to suppress automatic printing, and the ^ and $ anchors to match the beginning and end of each line, respectively.

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