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Using a shell like bash or zshell, how can I do a recursive 'find and replace'? In other words, I want to replace every occurrence of 'foo' with 'bar' in all files in this directory and its subdirectories.

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An alternative answer for the same questions can be found here stackoverflow.com/questions/9704020/… –  dunxd Feb 13 '13 at 12:00

5 Answers 5

up vote 31 down vote accepted

This command will do it (tested on both Mac OS X Lion and Kubuntu Linux).

# Recursively find and replace in files
find . -name "*.txt" -print0 | xargs -0 sed -i '' -e 's/foo/bar/g'

Here's how it works:

  1. find . -name '*.txt' finds, in the current directory (.) and below, all files whose names end in .txt
  2. | passes the output of that command (a list of filenames) to the next command
  3. xargs gathers up those filenames and hands them one by one to sed
  4. sed -i '' -e 's/foo/bar/g' means "edit the file in place, without a backup, and make the following substitution (s/foo/bar) multiple times per line (/g)" (see man sed)

Note that the 'without a backup' part in line 4 is OK for me, because the files I'm changing are under version control anyway, so I can easily undo if there was a mistake.

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Never ever pipe find output to xargs without the -print0 option. Your command will fail on files with spaces etc. in their name. –  slhck May 24 '12 at 23:16
Why do you need sed -i '' -e 's/foo/bar/g'? Doesn't sed -i 's/foo/bar/g' do the same thing? –  Daniel Andersson May 25 '12 at 7:19
Also, just find -name '*.txt' -exec sed -i 's/foo/bar/g' {} + will do all this with GNU find. –  Daniel Andersson May 25 '12 at 7:20
@DanielAndersson - I seem to be getting different results on my work Mac and home Ubuntu machines, so I need to do some more tinkering before I update this answer. One note, though: the find... -exec method is interesting, but man find says to use '-execdir' instead for security reasons. –  Nathan Long May 25 '12 at 13:11
This works for me if I remove the space between the -i and the '' –  Canadian Luke Jun 2 '14 at 19:49
find . -type f -name "*.txt" -exec sed -i'' -e 's/foo/bar/g' {} +

This removes the xargs dependency.

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This does not work with GNU sed, so will fail on most systems. GNU sed requires you to put no space between -i and ''. –  slhck Jan 16 '13 at 9:59
Good point. Fixed. Thanks! –  Ztyx Jan 21 '13 at 10:16

Here's my zsh/perl function I use for this:

change () {
        for file in $*
                perl -i.bak -p -e "s{$from}{$to}g;" $file
                echo "Changing $from to $to in $file"

And I'd execute it using

$ change foo bar **/*.java

(for example)

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My use case was I wanted to replace foo:/Drive_Letter with foo:/bar/baz/xyz In my case I was able to do it with the following code. I was in the same directory location where there were bulk of files.

find . -name "*.library" -print0 | xargs -0 sed -i '' -e 's/foo:\/Drive_Letter:/foo:\/bar\/baz\/xyz/g'

hope that helped.

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The following command worked fine on Ubuntu and CentOS; however, under OS X I kept getting errors:

find . -name Root -exec sed -i 's/\/home/foo.com\/mnt/' {} \;

sed: 1: "./Root": invalid command code .

When I tried passing the params via xargs it worked fine with no errors:

find . -name Root -print0 | xargs -0 sed -i '' -e 's/\/home/foo.com\/mnt/'
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