Master the Art of Find and Replace in Linux Using the Sed Command

Master the Art of Find and Replace in Linux Using the Sed Command

Table of Contents


The sed (stream editor) command in Linux is a versatile and powerful tool for text manipulation. In this blog post, we’ll explore how to find and replace any file’s contents using the sed command in Linux. This is a useful technique for both system administrators and developers when working on large projects or when configuring various aspects of the system.


To follow this tutorial, you should have a basic understanding of Linux commands and be familiar with the terminal or command line.

Step 1: Understand the sed Command

The sed command is used to perform various text transformations on an input stream (a file or input from a pipeline). The basic syntax of the sed command is:

sed 's/search_pattern/replace_string/' input_file > output_file

Here, ‘s’ stands for substitute, ‘search_pattern’ is the text you want to find, ‘replace_string’ is the text you want to replace it with, and ‘input_file’ and ‘output_file’ are the source and destination files, respectively.

Step 2: Finding and Replacing Text in a Single File

To find and replace text in a single file, use the following command:

sed 's/search_pattern/replace_string/g' input_file > output_file

The ‘g’ flag after the search_pattern and replace_string indicates that the sed command should perform the replacement globally, that is, replacing all occurrences of the search_pattern in the file. If you want to edit the file in-place, you can use the ‘-i’ option:

sed -i 's/search_pattern/replace_string/g' input_file

Step 3: Finding and Replacing Text in Multiple Files

To find and replace text in multiple files, we can use the ‘find’ command along with the sed command. The following command finds all the files with the ‘.txt’ extension in the current directory and its subdirectories and replaces the search_pattern with the replace_string:

find . -type f -name "*.txt" -exec sed -i 's/search_pattern/replace_string/g' {} +

Step 4: Using Regular Expressions

The sed command also supports regular expressions, which allows you to perform more complex search and replace operations. To use regular expressions, simply include them in the search_pattern. For example, to find and replace all occurrences of the word ‘color’ or ‘colour’ with ‘COLOR’, you can use:

sed 's/\(colo\|colour\)r/COLOR/g' input_file > output_file


The sed command in Linux is an essential tool for text manipulation, especially when it comes to finding and replacing text in files. By mastering the sed command, you can save time and effort when working with text files and automate various tasks in your daily work.

© 2024 Virendra Giri