I've created a script which writes .flame/XML-like files, containing within them, a string which looks like:


where n is a random number, with a variable number of digits. What I am attempting to do is replace this string with another random number within a particular range; generating this number is trivial, as I already have shuf working for this purpose. The trouble arises when attempting to find and replace this string, as it could be similar to any of the following:

scale="54.1948", scale="182.55816", or scale="3.59"

I've tried using sed for this, and while I'm confident it's possible, I have not found the correct syntax. The occurrence of this string is not consistent between files.

Ideally, the command I am looking for would convert a string which looks like this:

scale="54.1948" or scale="3.59"

to one which looks like:

scale"254" or scale="579"

Thanks for any help.

  • 1
    Is the file in fact an XML file? In that case one could possibly do it with XMLstarlet.
    – Kusalananda
    Jan 4, 2017 at 11:52

2 Answers 2


The syntax you are looking for is sed -e 's/\(scale=\)"[0-9]\+\(\.[0-9]\+\)\?"/\1"'"$replacement_number"'"/'. The search regex in detail:

\(scale=\)        the literal string scale=, remembered as \1
"                 opening double quote
[0-9]\+           one or more digits
\(\.[0-9]\+\)\?   optionally, a period followed by one or more digits
"                 closing double quote

This is a simpler and more generalized solution. Extended sed syntax (-e) and back-references are not used for this solution.

This replaces everything between the double quotes with the number $n.

The basic sed command looks like this:


The expression [^"]* matches zero or more non-double-quote characters. After quoting, the shell command looks like this:

sed "s/scale=\"[^\"]*\"/scale=\"$n\"/"

If you want to change only the scale values which contain numbers and decimal points only, you could use someting like this:


There's usually a trade off between input checking vs readability and maintainability.

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