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Typing /usr/bin/env sed -f in terminal works.

But if use it as a shebang,

#!/usr/bin/env sed -f 

The script will be fail to execute:

/usr/bin/env: sed -f: No such file or directory

I kind of believe that it's related with the -f. But how to resolve this?

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You can't, portably, put more than one argument on a #! line. That means only a full path and one argument (e.g. #!/bin/sed -f or #!/usr/bin/sed -f), or #!/usr/bin/env and no argument to the interpreter.

A workaround to get a portable script is to use #!/bin/sh and a shell wrapper, passing the sed script as a command-line argument. Note that this is not sanctioned by POSIX (multi-instruction scripts must be written with a separate -e argument for each instruction for portability), but it works with many implementations.

exec sed '
' "$@"

For a long script, it may be more convenient to use a heredoc. An advantage of a heredoc is that you don't need to quote the single quotes inside, if any. A major downside is that the script is fed to sed on its standard input, with two annoying consequences. Some versions of sed require -f /dev/stdin instead of -f -, which is a problem for portability. Worse, the script can't act as a filter, because the standard input is the script and can't be the data.

exec sed -f - -- "$@" <<'EOF'

The downside of the heredoc can be remedied by a useful use of cat. Since this puts the whole script on the command line again, it's not POSIX-compliant, but largely portable in practice.

exec sed "$(cat <<'EOF')" -- "$@"

Another workaround is to write a script that can be parsed both by sh and by sed. This is portable, reasonably efficient, just a little ugly.

#! /bin/sh
b ()
f true; then exec sed -f "$0" "$@"; fi
: ()
# sed script starts here


  • Under sh: define a function called b; the contents don't matter as long as the function is syntactically well-formed (in particular, you can't have an empty function). Then if true (i.e. always), execute sed on the script.
  • Under sed: branch to the () label, then some well-formed input. Then an i command, which has no effect because it's always skipped. Finally the () label followed by the useful part of the script.
  • Tested under GNU sed, BusyBox and OpenBSD. (You can get away with something simpler on GNU sed, but OpenBSD sed is picky about the parts it skips.)
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"or #!/usr/bin/env and no argument." isn't phrased very well. Perhaps "or #!/usr/bin/env sed and no argument to sed." – cjm Jun 13 '11 at 9:03
+1 for "just a little ugly" and the dual-language script :) – retracile May 8 '12 at 18:42

There are various incompatible implementations of the shebang (#!) depending on the OS. Some are building a full argument list, some are preserving the command path and put all remaining arguments as a single one, some are ignoring all of the arguments and pass only the command path, and finally, some are passing the whole string as a single command. You seem to be in the latter case.

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env is trying to find a file with name "sed -f". You can try "#!/usr/bin/sed -f" as your shebang line.

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