I have a source code spread across several files.

  • It has a pattern abcdef which I need to replace with pqrstuvxyz.
  • The pattern could be Abcdef (Sentence Case) then it needs to be replaced with Pqrstuvxyz.
  • The pattern could be AbCdEf (Toggle case) then it needs to be replaced with PqRsTuVxYz.

In short, I need to match the case of the source pattern and apply the appropriate destination pattern.

How can I achieve this using sed or any other tool?

  • And if it's ABcDeF? – Stéphane Chazelas Apr 20 '14 at 18:35
  • PQrStUvxyz - I get your point. – user1263746 Apr 20 '14 at 18:40
  • So if ABcDeF -> PQrStUvxyz, then surely AbCdEf -> PqRsTuvxyz would be logically consistent. If the case is to be copied from one string to the other, what should happen if the second replacement string is longer. – Graeme Apr 20 '14 at 18:48
  • Well lets trim the replacement to "pqrstu" for the sake of brevity. – user1263746 Apr 20 '14 at 18:56

Portable solution using sed:

sed '

It's a bit easier with GNU sed:

search=abcdef replace=pqrstuvwx
sed -r ":1;/$search/I!b;s//\n&&&\n$replace\n/;:2

By using &&& above, we reuse the case pattern of the string for the rest of the replacement, So ABcdef would be changed to PQrstuVWx and AbCdEf to PqRsTuVwX. Change it to & to affect only the case of the first 6 characters.

(note that it may not do what you want or may run into an infinite loop if the replacement may be subject to substitution (for instance if substituting foo for foo, or bcd for abcd)


Portable solution using awk:

awk -v find=abcdef -v rep=pqrstu '{
  offset=index(lwr, tolower(find))

  if( offset > 0 ) {
    printf "%s", substr($0, 0, offset)

    for( i=0; i<len; i++ ) {
      out=substr(rep, i+1, 1)

      if( substr($0, offset+i, 1) == substr(lwr, offset+i, 1) )
        printf "%s", tolower(out)
        printf "%s", toupper(out)

    printf "%s\n", substr($0, offset+len)

Example input:

other abcdef other
other Abcdef other
other AbCdEf other

Example output:

other pqrstu other
other Pqrstu other
other PqRsTu other


As pointed out in the comments, the above will only replace the first instance of find in every line. To replace all instances:

awk -v find=abcdef -v rep=pqrstu '{
  offset=index(lwr, tolower(find))

  if( offset > 0 ) {
    while( offset > 0 ) {

      printf "%s", substr(input, 0, offset)

      for( i=0; i<len; i++ ) {
        out=substr(rep, i+1, 1)

        if( substr(input, offset+i, 1) == substr(lwr, offset+i, 1) )
          printf "%s", tolower(out)
          printf "%s", toupper(out)

      input=substr(input, offset+len)
      lwr=substr(lwr, offset+len)
      offset=index(lwr, tolower(find))

    print input

Example input:

other abcdef other ABCdef other
other Abcdef other abcDEF
other AbCdEf other aBCdEf other

Example output:

other pqrstu other PQRstu other
other Pqrstu other pqrSTU
other PqRsTu other pQRsTu other
  • Note that is only processes one instance per line. – Stéphane Chazelas Apr 21 '14 at 12:48
  • @StephaneChazelas, updated to handle multiple instances. – Graeme Apr 21 '14 at 22:58

You could use perl. Straight from the faq -- quoting from perldoc perlfaq6:

How do I substitute case-insensitively on the LHS while preserving case on the RHS?

Here's a lovely Perlish solution by Larry Rosler. It exploits properties of bitwise xor on ASCII strings.

   $_= "this is a TEsT case";

   $old = 'test';
   $new = 'success';

   { uc $new | (uc $1 ^ $1) .
           (uc(substr $1, -1) ^ substr $1, -1) x
           (length($new) - length $1)


And here it is as a subroutine, modeled after the above:

       sub preserve_case($$) {
               my ($old, $new) = @_;
               my $mask = uc $old ^ $old;

               uc $new | $mask .
                       substr($mask, -1) x (length($new) - length($old))

       $string = "this is a TEsT case";
       $string =~ s/(test)/preserve_case($1, "success")/egi;
       print "$string\n";

This prints:

           this is a SUcCESS case

As an alternative, to keep the case of the replacement word if it is longer than the original, you can use this code, by Jeff Pinyan:

   sub preserve_case {
           my ($from, $to) = @_;
           my ($lf, $lt) = map length, @_;

           if ($lt < $lf) { $from = substr $from, 0, $lt }
           else { $from .= substr $to, $lf }

           return uc $to | ($from ^ uc $from);

This changes the sentence to "this is a SUcCess case."

Just to show that C programmers can write C in any programming language, if you prefer a more C-like solution, the following script makes the substitution have the same case, letter by letter, as the original. (It also happens to run about 240% slower than the Perlish solution runs.) If the substitution has more characters than the string being substituted, the case of the last character is used for the rest of the substitution.

   # Original by Nathan Torkington, massaged by Jeffrey Friedl
   sub preserve_case($$)
           my ($old, $new) = @_;
           my ($state) = 0; # 0 = no change; 1 = lc; 2 = uc
           my ($i, $oldlen, $newlen, $c) = (0, length($old), length($new));
           my ($len) = $oldlen < $newlen ? $oldlen : $newlen;

           for ($i = 0; $i < $len; $i++) {
                   if ($c = substr($old, $i, 1), $c =~ /[\W\d_]/) {
                           $state = 0;
                   } elsif (lc $c eq $c) {
                           substr($new, $i, 1) = lc(substr($new, $i, 1));
                           $state = 1;
                   } else {
                           substr($new, $i, 1) = uc(substr($new, $i, 1));
                           $state = 2;
           # finish up with any remaining new (for when new is longer than old)
           if ($newlen > $oldlen) {
                   if ($state == 1) {
                           substr($new, $oldlen) = lc(substr($new, $oldlen));
                   } elsif ($state == 2) {
                           substr($new, $oldlen) = uc(substr($new, $oldlen));
           return $new;

If you trim the replace to pqrstu, try this:




$ perl -lpe 's/$_/$_^lc($_)^"pqrstu"/ei' file

If you want replace with prstuvxyz, may be this:

$ perl -lne '@c=unpack("(A4)*",$_);
    $_ =~ s/$_/$_^lc($_)^"pqrstu"/ei;
    $c[0] =~ s/$c[0]/$c[0]^lc($c[0])^"vxyz"/ei;
    print $_,$c[0]' file

I can not find any rule to map ABcDeF -> PQrStUvxyz.


Something like this would do what you described.

sed -i.bak -e "s/abcdef/pqrstuvxyz/g" \
 -e "s/AbCdEf/PqRsTuVxYz/g" \
 -e "s/Abcdef/Pqrstuvxyz/g" files/src

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