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I'm trying to use xargs to run a command for each provided argument, but unfortunately the --replace/-I flag doesn't seem to work properly when conjugated with -n. It seems that {} will expand into the full list of arguments read from stdin, regardless of the -n option.

Unfortunately all of the examples on the web seem to be for commands (mv, cp, rm) which will take multiple arguments where {} is expanded.

For example, when running:

echo a b c d | xargs -n 1 -I {} echo derp {}

The output is:

derp a b c d

But I expected:

derp a
derp b
derp c
derp d

However, running it without -I {} yields the expected result:

echo a b c d | xargs -n 1 echo derp
derp a
derp b
derp c
derp d

Is there any way to achieve this with xargs? My ultimate intention is to use it to run multiple (parralel) ssh sessions, like

echo server{1..90} | xargs -n 1 -P 0 -I {} ssh {} 'echo $SOME_HOST_INFO'

I'm running xargs (GNU findutils) 4.4.2 on RHEL 6.3.

share|improve this question
Interestingly it works as you intend with BSD xargs, but not GNU xargs. – slhck Jul 26 '13 at 9:39
man xargs on -I: Also, unquoted blanks do not terminate input items; instead the separator is the newline character. Implies -x and -L 1. So it behaves as designed. – Daniel Beck Jul 26 '13 at 12:09
@André, since your intention is to run taks in parallel, have you taken a look at GNU parallel? It does the job nicely. Disclaimer: I package it for Debian. – rbrito Jul 30 '13 at 12:58
GNU parallel seemed like a good replacement, but unfortunately I can't install it on this particular host. – André Fernandes Aug 11 '13 at 15:31
@AndréFernandes Can you elaborate if you reason is not covered by – Ole Tange Aug 18 '13 at 11:00
up vote 4 down vote accepted

You can echo with newlines to achieve your expected result. In your case with the server expansion that would be:

$ echo -e server{1..4}"\n" | xargs -I{} echo derp {}
derp server1
derp server2
derp server3
derp server4
share|improve this answer
The newline idea works around the issue (just not with your exact example): echo server{1..4} | tr ' ' '\n' | xargs -I{} echo derp {} derp server1 derp server2 derp server3 derp server4 – André Fernandes Jul 26 '13 at 12:07
Sorry, tested it with zsh ... Fixed my answer. echo needs the -e option. – ahilsend Jul 26 '13 at 12:11

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