How To Use Sed

Shell Programming

I’ve always found sed to be a powerful and versatile tool for text manipulation in the command line. If you’re new to sed, or if you’re looking to expand your knowledge, you’re in the right place. Let’s dive into how to use sed and explore some practical examples.

What is Sed?

sed stands for “stream editor” and is a command-line utility for parsing and transforming text. It’s a powerful tool for processing text files, especially when used in combination with other commands like grep and awk.

Basic Syntax

The basic syntax for using sed is:

sed [options] 'command' inputfile


  • options are used to modify the behavior of sed.
  • command specifies the action to be performed on the input.
  • inputfile is the file to be processed.

Example: Replace Text

One of the most common use cases for sed is to replace text within a file. Let’s say I have a file called example.txt containing the text “Hello, World!”. I can use sed to replace “Hello” with “Hey” like this:

sed 's/Hello/Hey/' example.txt

This command will modify example.txt in place, replacing the first occurrence of “Hello” with “Hey”.

Example: Print Lines

sed can also be used to print specific lines from a file. If I want to print the first 5 lines of example.txt, I can use:

sed -n '1,5p' example.txt

The -n option suppresses automatic printing, and the 1,5p command specifies to print lines 1 through 5.

Example: Using Regular Expressions

Regular expressions are a powerful feature of sed that allow for complex pattern matching. For example, if I want to delete all lines containing the word “error” from example.txt, I can use:

sed '/error/d' example.txt

This will remove all lines with the word “error” from the file.


Using sed effectively can greatly enhance your command-line text processing capabilities. It’s a tool that may seem daunting at first, but with practice, it can become an invaluable asset in your workflow. Whether you’re replacing text, printing specific lines, or using regular expressions, sed offers a wide range of functionality for manipulating text data. I encourage you to experiment with sed and discover its full potential!