What Is Sed Scripting?


Larry Thompson

What Is Sed Scripting?

Sed, short for stream editor, is a powerful text manipulation tool that is commonly used in Unix-like operating systems. It allows you to perform various operations on text files, such as searching for patterns, replacing text, and editing specific lines. With its simple yet versatile syntax, Sed scripting has become an essential skill for system administrators and programmers.

Sed Basics

At its core, Sed operates by reading input line by line from a file or standard input stream and applying commands to modify or process the text. These commands are defined using a concise scripting language that consists of a command followed by any necessary arguments.

To use Sed, you typically provide it with a script file containing the desired commands or specify the commands directly on the command line. Let’s take a look at some commonly used Sed commands:

  • s/search/replace/: This command substitutes the first occurrence of “search” with “replace” in each line of input.
  • s/search/replace/g: The ‘g’ flag makes the substitution global, replacing all occurrences of “search” with “replace”.
  • /pattern/p: This command prints lines that match the specified pattern.
  • d: This command deletes lines from the input.
  • /pattern/d: It deletes lines that match the specified pattern.

Advanced Features and Examples

Sed offers several advanced features that make it a powerful tool for complex text processing tasks. Some notable features include:

  • Regular Expressions: Sed supports powerful regular expressions, allowing you to search for patterns using a wide range of matching rules.
  • Address Ranges: You can specify ranges of lines to apply commands to, rather than processing the entire file.
  • Conditional Branching: Sed provides branching commands like ‘b’, ‘t’, and ‘q’ that allow you to control the flow of execution based on conditions.

Let’s explore a practical example to illustrate the power of Sed scripting. Suppose we have a file called “data.txt” containing a list of names, one per line.

We want to append the string ” – Senior” to each name that starts with the letter “A”. We can achieve this using the following Sed command:

$ sed '/^A/s/$/ - Senior/' data.txt

This command instructs Sed to find lines starting with “A” (using the pattern “^A”) and append ” – Senior” at the end (using the substitution command “$”). The modified output will be displayed on the terminal.


Sed scripting is a powerful tool that allows you to manipulate text files efficiently. With its extensive range of commands and features, Sed provides an elegant solution for various text processing tasks. Whether you need to perform simple substitutions or complex pattern matching, Sed offers a flexible and concise syntax that can save you considerable time and effort.

By mastering Sed scripting, you can automate repetitive tasks, streamline data processing pipelines, and become more productive as a programmer or system administrator.

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