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.

up vote 74 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 . -type f -name "*.txt" -print0 | xargs -0 sed -i '' -e 's/foo/bar/g'

Here's how it works:

  1. find . -type f -name '*.txt' finds, in the current directory (.) and below, all regular files (-type f) 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.

  • 8
    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
  • 16
    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
  • 5
    I get sed: can't read : No such file or directory when I run find . -name '*.md' -print0 | xargs -0 sed -i '' -e 's/ä/ä/g', but find . -name '*.md' -print0 gives a list of many files. – Martin Thoma Jan 30 '14 at 11:00
  • 5
    This works for me if I remove the space between the -i and the '' – Canadian Luke Jun 2 '14 at 19:49
  • 3
    What is the meaning of '' after the sed -i what is the '' role? – Jas Jul 28 '15 at 15:06
find . -type f -name "*.txt" -exec sed -i'' -e 's/foo/bar/g' {} +

This removes the xargs dependency.

  • 3
    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
  • 1
    The accepted answers does a better job of explaining it. but +1 for using the correct syntax. – orodbhen Nov 18 '16 at 17:10

If you're using Git then you can do this:

git grep -lz foo | xargs -0 sed -i '' -e 's/foo/bar/g'

-l lists only filenames. -z prints a null byte after each result.

I ended up doing this because some files in a project did not have a newline at the end of the file, and sed added a newline even when it made no other changes. (No comment on whether or not files should have a newline at the end. 🙂)

  • 1
    Big +1 for this solution. The rest of the find ... -print0 | xargs -0 sed ... solutions not only take a lot longer but also add newlines to files that don't have one already, which is a nuisance when working inside a git repo. git grep is lighting fast by comparison. – Josh Kupershmidt Sep 30 '16 at 19:56

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

change () {
        from=$1 
        shift
        to=$1 
        shift
        for file in $*
        do
                perl -i.bak -p -e "s{$from}{$to}g;" $file
                echo "Changing $from to $to in $file"
        done
}

And I'd execute it using

$ change foo bar **/*.java

(for example)

Try:

sed -i 's/foo/bar/g' $(find . -type f)

Tested on Ubuntu 12.04.

This command will NOT work if subdirectory names and/or filenames contain spaces, but if you do have them don't use this command as it won't work.

It is generally a bad practice to use spaces in directory names and filenames.

http://linuxcommand.org/lc3_lts0020.php

Look at "Important facts about file names"

  • Try it when you have file(s) with space(s) in their names.  (There's a rule of thumb that says, "If something seems too good to be true, it probably is."  If you have "discovered" a solution that's more compact than anything anybody else has posted in 3½ years, you should ask yourself why that might be.) – Scott Nov 8 '15 at 6:43

Use This Shell Script

I now use this shell script, which combines things I learned from the other answers and from searching the web. I placed it in a file called change in a folder on my $PATH and did chmod +x change.

#!/bin/bash
function err_echo {
  >&2 echo "$1"
}

function usage {
  err_echo "usage:"
  err_echo '  change old new foo.txt'
  err_echo '  change old new foo.txt *.html'
  err_echo '  change old new **\*.txt'
  exit 1
}

[ $# -eq 0 ] && err_echo "No args given" && usage

old_val=$1
shift
new_val=$1
shift
files=$* # the rest of the arguments

[ -z "$old_val" ]  && err_echo "No old value given" && usage
[ -z "$new_val" ]  && err_echo "No new value given" && usage
[ -z "$files" ]    && err_echo "No filenames given" && usage

for file in $files; do
  sed -i '' -e "s/$old_val/$new_val/g" $file
done

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.

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

find . -name Root -exec sed -i 's/1.2.3.4\/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/1.2.3.4\/home/foo.com\/mnt/'
  • The fact that you changed -i to -i '' is probably more relevant than the fact that you changed -exec to -print0 | xargs -0.  BTW, you probably don't need the -e. – Scott Nov 8 '15 at 6:36

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