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Replace a String in Multiple Files in Linux Using Grep and Sed

Basic Format

grep -rl matchstring somedir/ | xargs sed -i 's/string1/string2/g'

Note: The forward slash '/' delimiter in the sed argument could also be a different delimiter (such as the pipe '|' character). The pipe delimiter might be useful when searching through a lot of html files if you didn't want to escape the forward slash, for instance.

  • matchstring is the string you want to match, e.g., "football"

  • string1 would ideally be the same string as matchstring, as the matchstring in the grep command will pipe only files with matchstring in them to sed.

  • string2 is the string that replace string1.

There may be times when you want to use grep to find only files that have some matchstring and then replace on a different string in the file than matchstring. For example, maybe you have a lot of files and only want to only replace on files that have the matchstring of 'phonenumber' in them, and then replace '555-5555' with '555-1337'. Not that great of an example (you could just search files for that phone number instead of the string 'phonenumber'), but your imagination is probably better than mine.

Example

grep -rl --include="*.csh" "\"<INSTALLDIR>\"" ./ | xargs sed -i 's/"<INSTALLDIR>"/\/opt\/intel\/compilers_and_libraries\/linux/g'

This example also shows the condition when there is a slash in the string

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