As “promised(A brief history of ed, sed and Regular Expressions)”:, I’ve found a nice script which will allow you to edit the original files using @sed@, making running @sed@ on multiple files much more useful. The script come from O’Reilly’s excellent “UNIX Power Tools”: (which is probably the most useful book on actually using Unix/Linux/cygwin that I’ve ever read), and can be viewed on the “UNIX Power Tools Examples(, 3rd Edition – runsed)”: site.

The shell script @runsed@ was developed to make changes to a file permanently. It applies your @sedscr@ to an input file, creates a temporary file, then copies that file over the original. @runsed@ has several safety checks:

  • It won’t edit the @sed@ script file (if you accidentally include @sedscr@ on the command line).
  • It complains if you try to edit an empty file or something that isn’t a file (like a directory).
  • If the @sed@ script doesn’t produce any output, @runsed@ aborts instead of emptying your original file.

@runsed@ only modifies a file if your @sedscr@ made edits. So, the file’s timestamp (Section 8.2) won’t change if the file’s contents weren’t changed.

Also of possible interest is “checksed(, 3rd Edition – checksed)”:, which unlike @runsed@ simply provides a @diff@ allowing you to check the changes your @sed@ commands will make. Very handy before you start thinking about running @sed@ on several thousand files!