10 November 2012

Quick Play with Pattern and Hold Spaces in Sed

I had some rows of data that required two changes and both changes had to appear on separate lines. For example, if the input was ...


... and the requirement was to find '456', replace '5' with 'a' on one line and 'b' on another line so that the output would look like this:


The sed script below applies the first change, prints it, applies the second change and let sed print the pattern space at the end of the function.

/456/ {
  s/5/a/p --> pattern space = 4a6, print pattern space.
  s/a/b/  --> pattern space = 4b6
}         --> print pattern space, 4b6

In the script above, notice that the input string was first modified from '456' to '4a6' so the second statement has to replace 'a' with 'b'.

Another approach is to create two lines first (i.e. 456\n456) then replace the first '5' with 'a' and replace the second '5' with 'b'.

/456/ {
  h      --> hold space = pattern space, 456
  H      --> hold space = 456\n456 (456 + \n + pattern space)
  g      --> pattern space = hold space, 456\n456
  s/5/a/ --> pattern space = 4a6\n456
  s/5/b/ --> pattern space = 4a6\n4b6
}        --> print pattern space, '4a6\n4b6'

The script above uses sed's hold space to construct the two lines first. I don't know if the second script is clearer than the first but it was a simple problem that I could use to play with sed's pattern and hold spaces.