The Power of sed Command A Beginner's Guide

By: O. Wolfson

The sed command is one of the most versatile and powerful tools available in Unix-based systems for text processing. 'sed' stands for Stream Editor, and it is a utility that allows you to perform text transformations on an input stream (either a file or input from a pipeline). In this tutorial, we will cover the basic concepts of 'sed', its syntax, and some examples to help you get started with this powerful command.

Understanding 'sed' Syntax:

The basic syntax for 'sed' is as follows:

sed 'COMMAND' input_file > output_file

Here, 'COMMAND' is the operation you want to perform on the input_file, and the result will be written to output_file. You can also use pipes to work with the output of other commands.

Common 'sed' Commands:

Substitute command (s): The substitute command is used to replace a specific pattern with another pattern. The syntax is:


Example: Replace the first occurrence of 'apple' with 'orange' on each line of a file.

sed 's/apple/orange/' input_file > output_file

Delete command (d): The delete command is used to remove lines matching a specific pattern. The syntax is:


Example: Delete all lines containing the word 'cat'.

sed '/cat/d' input_file > output_file

Print command (p): The print command is used to display lines matching a specific pattern. The syntax is:


Example: Print all lines containing the phrase 'regular expression'.

sed -n '/regular expression/p' input_file

Multiple commands: You can use multiple commands separated by a semicolon (;).

Example: Replace 'apple' with 'orange' and delete lines containing 'error'.

sed 's/apple/orange/; /regular expression/d' input_file > output_file

Tips and Tricks:

Use the '-i' flag to edit a file in-place:

sed -i 's/apple/orange/' input_file

Use the 'g' flag to replace all occurrences of a pattern:

sed 's/cat/dog/g' input_file > output_file

Use the '&' symbol to refer to the matched pattern in the replacement part:

sed 's/[aeiou]/(&)/g' input_file > output_file

This command will enclose all vowels in parentheses.


The 'sed' command is a powerful text processing tool that can help you manipulate and transform text in various ways. With the basics covered in this tutorial, you can now start exploring 'sed' and integrate it into your daily tasks.

Download the file.txt file for testing.