I found a really great tutorial explaining some practical sed examples.

The last one (number 10) can be seen below:

$ sed -e 's/<[^>]*>//g'
This <b> is </b> an <i>example</i>.
This  is  an example.

Can someone please help me through this one?

To summarize where I'm at: 1. I understand : s/x/y/g is a command telling sed to "globally subsitute the regex x with the regex y 2. It seems like the -e flag puts sed in some sort of "interactive mode", from the man page:

-e command
             Append the editing commands specified by the command argument to
             the list of commands.

This seems confusing to me because it doesn't seem like we're giving sed a "list of commands" it seems like we're giving it a "list of arguments" so I'm not to sure on that one. 3. I understand that the first and only < is nothing more than the single char regex <, and the last > is nothing more than the single char regex > 4. I understand that the * is telling sed to match 0 or more occurances of the pattern before it, which is in this case inside the brackets; however, this is where I'm really confused: can someone please unpack the [^>]* more for me?

so where I'm really confused on is:

  • what's going on with -e in plain english?
  • what's going on with [^>]*?

Thanks :)

  • 2
    After you have learned the sed syntax, understand that removing HTML using simple sed substitutions isn't going to be perfect, ever: stackoverflow.com/a/1732454/308668. sed could be able to parse it using its other features, though. – souser12345 Sep 1 '16 at 5:27

The sequence s/<[^>]*>//g is a command to the sed processing engine; it tells it to do a "Search and replace". So -e 's/..../g' means "add this search and replace command to the execution of sed.

This may make more sense if we do multiple commands in one command:

sed -e '1d' -e '$d'

would add two commands to the sed processing; "delete first line" and "delete last line".

The [^>] is a regular expression that means "any character except for the >

So [^>]* means "zero or more of any character except for the >

And so <[^>]*> means a <, optionally followed by non->, followed by >.

And then we put that into a "search and replace" command where this sequence is replaced by nothing, and then do it multiple times in the line (the final g).

This means that the string hello <abc> there <def> will first match <abc> (the <, then abc matches "zero or more non->", then the >) and replace that with nothing, and then redo this for the <def>. The result would be hello there.

(Note the extra spaces, 'cos we're not removing them!)


Limiting the scope to the two points:

  • The -e tells sed that there is an editing command following

  • The [^>]* is a pattern that matches zero-or-more characters that can be "anything" except the > character

and the editing command says


change anything that matches <, followed by any number of characters up until the first > to nothing. And do that as many times as there are matches.

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