Grep and Sed, Demystified


I’ve form of half understood grep for a whereas, but assumed that I didn’t of route assemble it in any recognize. I idea I knew nothing in any recognize about sed. I took a whereas this weekend to take a seat down down and essentially be taught about these two commands and chanced on I already knew a pleasing deal about every of them and stuffed in a pair of of what I didn’t know reasonably easily. Both are loads extra easy and easy than I idea they were.


grep comes from “global traditional expression print”. Right here’s no longer of route an acronym, but comes from the ordinary time ed line editor tool. In that tool, whereas you happen to wanted to globally search a file you were enhancing and print the strains that matched, you’d form g/re/p (where re is the normal expression you would possibly maybe maybe also very successfully be using to head wanting. The functionality purchased pulled out of ed and made accurate into a standalone tool, grep.


grep, in its easiest utilize, searches all of the strains of a given file or files and prints all of the strains that match a standard expression. Syntax:


So whereas you happen to ought to head wanting the file animals.txt for all of the strains that maintain the observe dog, you merely form:

grep dog animals.txt

It’s infrequently urged that you just consist of the expression in single quotes. This prevents quite loads of attainable concerns, corresponding to misinterpretations of areas or accidental growth:

grep 'flying squirrel' animals.txt

It’s moreover a pleasing belief to explicitly utilize the -e flag forward of the expression. This explicitly tells grep that the article coming subsequent is the expression. Insist you had a file that became list of items every preceded with a traipse, and you wanted to tackle up for -dog

grep '-dog' animals.txt

Even with the quotes, grep will strive to parse -dog as a jabber line flag. This handles it:

grep -e '-dog' animals.txt

You would possibly maybe well maybe perhaps search plenty of files at the same time with wildcards:

grep -e 'dog' *

This can receive all of the strains that maintain dog in any file within the present list.

You would possibly maybe well maybe perhaps moreover recurse directories using the -r (or -R) flag:

grep -r -e 'dog' *

You would possibly maybe well maybe perhaps mix flags, but produce sure that e is the final one forward of the expression:

grep -re 'dog' *

A of route total utilize of grep is to pipe the output of 1 jabber into grep.

cat animals.txt | grep -e 'dog'

This straightforward example is precisely the same as fair using grep with the file name, so is an unnecessary utilize of cat, but whereas you happen to would possibly maybe well maybe also fair beget one more jabber that generates a bunch of text, that is terribly precious.

grep merely outputs its results to stdout – the terminal. You would possibly maybe well pipe that into one more jabber or place it to a brand fresh file…

grep -e 'dog' animals.txt > canines.txt


Ought to you assemble into extra complicated traditional expressions, you’ll must delivery escaping the actual characters you utilize to procure them, love parentheses and brackets:

grep -e '(flying )?squirrel' animals.txt

This would possibly maybe maybe maybe perhaps also fair lickety-split became a disaster. Time for extended traditional expressions, using the -E flag:

grep -Ee '(flying )?squirrel' animals.txt

Worthy less complicated. Display that -E had nothing in any recognize to attain with -e. That at a loss for words me earlier. You ought to utilize every in this case. You would possibly maybe well fair beget heard of the tool egrep. Right here’s merely grep -E. In some systems egrep is actually a shell script that calls grep -E. In others it’s a separate executable, but it completely’s fair grep -E beneath the hood.

egrep -e '(flying )?squirrel' animals.txt

Other Stuff

The above covers most of what you would possibly maybe maybe also fair must know to make utilize of total grep. There are one more precious flags you would possibly maybe maybe also check into as successfully:

-o prints easiest the text that matches the expression, as a replacement of the overall line

-h suppresses the file name from printing

-n prints the line preference of every printed line.

Straightforward Text Search

If the article you would possibly maybe maybe also very successfully be attempting to search out is easy text, you would possibly maybe maybe also utilize grep -F or fgrep. Your whole similar, but you would possibly maybe maybe also’t utilize traditional expressions, fair tackle up for a easy string.

grep -Fe 'dog' animals.text
fgrep -e 'dog' animals.text


There’s moreover grep with Perl syntax for traditional expressions. Right here’s loads extra grand than commonplace grep regex syntax, but loads extra complicated, so easiest utilize it whereas you happen to of route favor it. It’s moreover no longer supported on every map. To make utilize of it, utilize the -P flag.

grep -Pe 'dog' animals.text

On this simple case, using Perl syntax offers us nothing previous the sensible syntax. Additionally gift that pgrep is NOT an replacement accomplish of grep -P. So great for consistency.


I idea that I knew subsequent to nothing about sed, but it completely turns out that I’ve been using it for a pair of years for text replacement in vim! sed stands for “movement editor” and moreover hails from the ed line editor program. The syntax is:

sed  jabber 

The 2 major choices you’ll utilize many of the time are -e and -E which work the same technique they attain in grep.

The most typical utilize of sed is to replace text in files. There are other uses that will edit the files in other methods, but I’ll follow the total replacement utilize case.

Delight in grep, sed reads every line of text in a file or files and appears for a match. It then performs a replacement on the matched text and prints out the following strains. The expression to make utilize of for replacement is


where x is the text you would possibly maybe maybe also very successfully be searching for, and y is what to replace it with. So to replace all cases of cat with the observe feline in animals.txt

sed -e 's/cat/feline/' animals.txt

Display that sed will print every line of text within the file, whether or no longer or no longer it stumbled on a match or no longer. However the strains that it matched will be modified the technique you specified.

After the final nick within the expression, you would possibly maybe maybe also add other regex flags love g for global or i for case insensitivity.

Delight in grep, sed fair outputs to stdout. You would possibly maybe well maybe perhaps redirect that to 1 more file using > or pipe it to 1 more route of using |. But attain NOT place the output back to the usual file. Are trying it out a whereas on a check file that you just don’t care about and explore what happens.

There are many other choices you would possibly maybe maybe also utilize with sed however the above will doubtlessly assemble you by for a whereas to reach back. As it is advisable extra, fair be taught up.


The finest thing I took far from the couple of hours I spent on this became of route how easy these two commands were to be taught. I’d been warding off doing so for a extraordinarily long time and now wish that I had utilize the state on this great earlier.

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