how to delete only the line from xml file ( with sed/awk or perl one liner line )

that start with:


and ended with


as the follwoing

<units><unit ip= ............   </units><ranges/></Networks>
  • 4
    You understand that this leaves you with an xml file that is syntactically incorrect, i.e. you're missing the closing </Networks> tag by removing the line.
    – wurtel
    Mar 16, 2015 at 10:45
  • yes I know that ( the first Networks exist on the top of the file Mar 16, 2015 at 10:46
  • 2
    Why do you need an ill formed XML file?
    – choroba
    Mar 16, 2015 at 10:47
  • dont worry later I will append new lines that will be in place that line Mar 16, 2015 at 10:49
  • 4
    Looks like an XY problem to me. What are you -actually- trying to accomplish? Parsing XML with regex is a bad idea, because there's lots of ways it can go wrong. Creating malformed XML deliberately is also a bad idea, for much the same reason. What problem are you trying to solve? I will probably suggest the answer is - use an XML parser, not a regex. With a bit more XML as a sample, this is actually very easy to do.
    – Sobrique
    Mar 16, 2015 at 11:11

3 Answers 3


Do not use regular expressions to parse XML. It's an excellent way to create brittle code, because there's a bunch of perfectly valid things you can do with XML which will break a regex. Things like reformatting the XML in entirely valid ways (such as 'pretty printing' it in a nested/indented form) will break your code.

Instead I would suggest - use an XML parser. Personally, I like the XML::Twig module in perl.

Your comment suggests that what you're trying to do is add stuff to a <Networks> element in your XML.

So how about something like this:

use strict;
use warnings;

use XML::Twig;

my $xml_text = '<XML>
<Networks><units><unit ip="" /></units><ranges/></Networks>

my $parser = XML::Twig->new( 'pretty_print' => 'indented' );
#would probably use 'parsefile' instead here

print "\nBefore:\n";

#insert a new element into 'Networks':
        'last_child',     #position - end of "Networks" element
        'new_element',    #element
        {   'attribute_here'    => "value_here",
            'another_attribute' => 'another_value',
        },                 #attributes as key value pairs
        "Content_here",    #element content

print "\nAfter:\n";

Try this:

perl -i -pe 's|^<units>.*</Networks>$||' /my/filename

Note that if you have leading or trailing space in the line you will need this instead:

perl -i -pe 's|^ *<units>.*</Networks> *$||' /my/filename

I uesd pipe as a separator rather than slash to avoid unnecessary escaping.

  • I'll now leave you to be partonised by the regulars: if you're an expert, you already know the issues, and if not you will learn them by trying this. Mar 16, 2015 at 11:40
  • the units line is only the one unit line in the XML so I not see any problem here Mar 16, 2015 at 12:04

Since you indicate that you are aware that this will break your XML, you can do what you want with one of these:

  1. Perl

    perl -ne 'print unless m#^<units>.*</Networks>$#' file.xml 
    perl -ne 'm#^<units>.*</Networks>$# ? next : print' file.xml 
  2. awk

    awk '!/^<units>.*<\/Networks>$/' file.xml 
  3. sed

    sed '/^<units>.*<\/Networks>$/d' file.xml 
  4. grep

    grep -Ev '^<units>.*<\/Networks>$' file.xml 
  5. Bash (and zsh), for the sake of completion

    while read -r line; do 
        [[ "$line" =~ ^\<units\>.*\<\/Networks\>$ ]] || printf "%s\n" "$line"
    done < file.xml 
  • The awk one is a really (no pun intended) awkward way of doing it. Why not awk '!/<units>.*<\/Networks>/'
    – user78605
    Mar 16, 2015 at 13:56
  • You need the ! before it or else it will only print that line
    – user78605
    Mar 16, 2015 at 14:43
  • @JID fixed, I wrote too fast
    – terdon
    Mar 16, 2015 at 14:49
  • Sorry, you are also missing the last / :(
    – user78605
    Mar 16, 2015 at 15:09
  • 1
    @JID yes, that's what I get for editing on my phone. Thanks. Next time though, please edit the post directly to fix this sort of thing.
    – terdon
    Mar 16, 2015 at 15:15

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