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I have a input file delimited with commas (,). There are some fields enclosed in double quotes that are having a comma in them. Here is the sample row

123,"ABC, DEV 23",345,534.202,NAME

I need to remove all the comma's occuring within inside the double quotes and the double quotes as well. So the above line should get parsed into as shown below

123,ABC DEV 23,345,534.202,NAME

I tried the following using sed but not giving expected results.

sed -e 's/\(".*\),\(".*\)/\1 \2/g'

Any quick tricks with sed, awk or any other unix utility please?

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5 Answers 5

up vote 16 down vote accepted

If the quotes are balanced, you will want to remove commas between every other quote, this can be expressed in awk like this:

awk -F'"' -v OFS='' '{ for (i=2; i<=NF; i+=2) gsub(",", "", $i) } 1' infile


123,ABC DEV 23,345,534.202,NAME


The -F" makes awk separate the line at the double-quote signs, which means every other field will be the inter-quote text. The for-loop runs gsub, short for globally substitute, on every other field, replacing comma (",") with nothing (""). The 1 at the end invokes the default code-block: { print $0 }.

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Please can you elaborate on gsub and explain in short, how this one liner works?? please. –  mtk Sep 20 '12 at 11:46
Thank you! This scripts works really well, but could you explain the lonely 1 at the end of the script? -- } 1' -- –  CocoaEv Jun 18 '14 at 23:59
@CocoaEv: It executes { print $0 }. I added that to the explanation as well. –  Thor Jun 22 '14 at 13:26

Your second quotes are misplaced:

sed -e 's/\(".*\),\(.*"\)/\1 \2/g'

In addition, using regular expressions tend to match the longest possible part of the text, meaning this will not work if you have more than one quoted field in the string.

A way that handles multiple quoted fields in sed

sed -e 's/\(\"[^",]\+\),\([^",]*\)/\1 \2/g' -e 's/\"//g'

This is also a way to solve this, however, with input that may contain more than one comma per quoted field the first expression in the sed would have to be repeated as many times as the maximum comma content in a single field, or until it does not change the output at all.

Running sed with the more than one expression should be more efficient than several sed processes running and a "tr" all running with open pipes.

However, this may have undesired consequences if the input is not properly formatted. i.e. nested quotes, unterminated quotes.

Using the running example:

echo '123,"ABC, DEV 23",345,534,"some more, comma-separated, words",202,NAME' \
| sed -e 's/\(\"[^",]\+\),\([^",]*\)/\1 \2/g' \
-e 's/\(\"[^",]\+\),\([^",]*\)/\1 \2/g' -e 's/\"//g'


123,ABC  DEV 23,345,534,some more  comma-separated  words,202,NAME
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You can make it more general with conditional branching and more readable with ERE, e.g. with GNU sed: sed -r ':r; s/("[^",]+),([^",]*)/\1 \2/g; tr; s/"//g'. –  Thor Feb 25 '13 at 12:56

A general solution that can also handle several commas between balanced quotes needs a nested substitution. I implement a solution in perl, which process every line of a given input and only substitute commas in every other pair of quotes:

perl -pe 's/ "  (.+?  [^\\])  "               # find all non escaped 
                                              # quoting pairs
                                              # in a non-greedy way

           / ($ret = $1) =~ (s#,##g);         # remove all commas within quotes
             $ret                             # substitute the substitution :)

or in short

perl -pe 's/"(.+?[^\\])"/($ret = $1) =~ (s#,##g); $ret/ge'

You can either pipe the text you want to process to the command or specify the textfile to be processed as last command line argument.

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The [^\\] is going to have the undesired effect of matching the last character inside the quotes and removing it (non \ character), i.e., you should not consume that character. Try (?<!\\) instead. –  tojrobinson Sep 20 '12 at 9:13
Thanks for your objection, I have corrected that. Nevertheless I think we don't need look behind assertion here, or do we!? –  user1146332 Sep 20 '12 at 9:26
Including the non \ in your capture group produces an equivalent result. +1 –  tojrobinson Sep 20 '12 at 9:31
+1. after trying a few things with sed, I checked sed's docs and confirmed that it can't apply a replace to just the matching portion of a line...so gave up and tried perl. Ended up with a very similar approach but this version uses [^"]* to make the match non-greedy (i.e. matches everything from one " to the next "): perl -pe 's/"([^"]+)"/($match = $1) =~ (s:,::g);$match;/ge;'. It does not acknowledge the outlandish idea that a quote might be escaped with a backslash :-) –  cas Sep 20 '12 at 10:21
Thanks for your comment. Would be interesting if either the [^"]* approach or the explicit non-greedy approach consumes less cpu time. –  user1146332 Sep 20 '12 at 10:53

I would use a language with a proper CSV parser. For example:

ruby -r csv -ne '
  CSV.parse($_) do |row|
    newrow = CSV::Row.new [], []
    row.each {|field| newrow << field.delete(",")}
    puts newrow.to_csv
' < input_file
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There is a good response, using sed simply one time with a loop:

echo '123,"ABC, DEV 23",345,534,"some more, comma-separated, words",202,NAME'|
  sed ':a;s/^\(\([^"]*,\?\|"[^",]*",\?\)*"[^",]*\),/\1 /;ta'
123,"ABC  DEV 23",345,534,"some more  comma-separated  words",202,NAME


  • :a; is a label for furter branch
  • s/^\(\([^"]*,\?\|"[^",]*",\?\)*"[^",]*\),/\1 / could contain 3 enclosed parts
    • first the 2nd: [^"]*,\?\|"[^",]*",\? match for a string containing no double quote, maybe followed by a coma or a string enclosed by two double quote, without coma and maybe followed by a coma.
    • than the first RE part is composed by as many repetition of previously described part 2, followed by 1 double quote and some caracteres, but no double-quote, nor comas.
    • The first RE part as to be followed by a coma.
    • Nota, the rest of the line don't need to be touched
  • ta will loop to :a if previous s/ command did some change.
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