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After running this code

rm -f myfile myfile-individual
echo "Greetings, foobar!" > myfile
cat myfile | sed 's:foobar:$MYSTRING:' > myfile-individual

we end up with

Greetings, $MYSTRING!

in myfile-individual.

What should be the (sed/bash) script for the output to be instead

Greetings, Jack!
share|improve this question
up vote 4 down vote accepted

Change the single quotes to double quotes. And drop the cat (UUoC):

sed "s:foobar:$MYSTRING:" myfile > myfile-individual

From the manpage for bash:

   Enclosing characters in single quotes preserves the  literal  value  of
   each character within the quotes.  A single quote may not occur between
   single quotes, even when preceded by a backslash.

   Enclosing characters in double quotes preserves the  literal  value  of
   all  characters  within the quotes, with the exception of $, `, \, and,
   when history expansion is enabled, !.  The characters $  and  `  retain
   their  special meaning within double quotes.  The backslash retains its
   special meaning only when followed by one of the following  characters:
   $,  `,  ", \, or <newline>.  A double quote may be quoted within double
   quotes by preceding it with a backslash.  If enabled, history expansion
   will  be  performed  unless an !  appearing in double quotes is escaped
   using a backslash.  The backslash preceding the !  is not removed.
share|improve this answer
Thanks. I found that 's:foobar:'$MYSTRING':' will also work, but the double quotes make the code more legible. Quick sequel: is it possible for sed to substitute in-place (without saving into a new file)? – Calaf Apr 5 '12 at 17:29
Yes, look at the -i option in sed. – Arcege Apr 5 '12 at 17:58
Instead of sed -i you should look into ed as well. sed -i breaks links and is not very portable but if you don't have to worry about either, then it may be fine. – jw013 Apr 5 '12 at 18:35
@Calaf: .. regarding what you said about 's:foobar:'$MYSTRING':' will also work.. It won't work if $MYSTRING contains a sequence of whitespace; which the shell will collapse into a single space... However 's:foobar:'"$MYSTRING"':' will work in that case. – Peter.O Apr 6 '12 at 6:59

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