I have a text file and want to use sed to replace the following string (including the "s):

" rel="lightbox[1846]" title="



The numbers between [ and ] are variable and change.

I want to include the " in the substitution.

I've been reading up on wildcards and think . will help in some way — different from * wildcards I am used to.

  • 1
    sed doesn't do "wildcards", it does regular expressions. they are very different (see unix.stackexchange.com/questions/57957/…). Also, it looks like you're trying to parse/edit HTML or XML. Don't use sed (or any other regex based tool), use an XML or HTML parser instead. – cas Apr 10 '16 at 1:04
sed -E 's/" rel="lightbox\[[0-9]+\]" title="/#/g' filename
  • 1
    gnu sed also knows -E – don_crissti Apr 10 '16 at 22:03
  • @don_crissti You're right, -E works although strangely it's not listed in my GNU sed man page. – Guido Apr 10 '16 at 22:10
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    Yeah... I kept meaning to report the fact it's missing from the manual/info page... I'll prolly do it next week. – don_crissti Apr 10 '16 at 22:19

sed is indeed the right tool for this job, with its s command (the one that's used the most).

Wildcards for file names in the shell, and regular expressions in tools such as grep and sed, have a different syntax. See Why does my regular expression work in X but not in Y? for a summary of the differences.

In the text to replace, [ is a regular expression special character; the other characters stand for themselves. Since it's a special character, it needs to be written as \[ (the backslash makes the next character stand for itself instead of having its special meaning).

A sequence of digits is [0-9]*: [0-9] means “any digit”, and * means “repeat the preceding character or character set 0 or more times”.


sed 's/" rel="lightbox\[[0-9]]" title="/#/' <old-file >new-file

The single quotes make the shell pass everything in between literally to the sed command.


sed 's/" rel="lightbox[[0-9]+]" title="/#/g' filename

But if you wanna use it in perl , you have to use it like below

`sed 's/" rel="lightbox\[[0-9]+\]" title="/#/g' filename

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