Blog Posted February 3, 2011

Simplified Find/Replace from the Command Line

I recently needed to change all instances of the text /layout/ to /layout_xds/ in a large collection of css files housed throughout multiple levels of subdirectories.

To deal with the problem, I created a bash function to serve as a shortcut wrapping my usage of grep, sed, and uniq. Note that I’m using Mac OS X 10.6.6.

function rep() {
  for i in `grep -R --exclude="*.svn*" "$1" * | sed s/:.*$//g | uniq`; do
    sed -i ".bak" -e "s#$1#$2#g" $i

How to Use the Function

  1. Paste the above function into your ~/.bash_profile.
  2. Open or, if it's already open, enter source ~/.bash_profile to reload your profile settings.
  3. cd to the directory where you'd like to perform the recursive find/replace.
  4. Enter rep textofind texttoreplace. For example, to executive my above-mentioned find/replace, I entered rep /layout/ /layout_xds/
  5. Note that the function backs up the original files with a *.bak file extension. After verifying that the find/replace has successfully executed, delete the *.bak files by running find . -name "*.bak" -exec rm "{}" \; from the directory where the rep command was run.

Props to Jeff for helping me on some syntax specifics.