I'm trying to write a basic sed script, I want to append to lines that start with SSID:. Here is what I'm trying now:

#!/bin/sed -f

/^SSID:/ s/*/},\n{/

With the following input:

SSID:                                   '2KLIC Guests'
BSSID:                                  F0:9F:C2:21:03:BA
MODE:                                   Infrastructure
FREQ:                                   2437 MHz
RATE:                                   16 MB/s
SIGNAL:                                 100
SECURITY:                               WPA2
ACTIVE:                                 yes
SSID:                                   'CBMS-2.4GHz'
BSSID:                                  10:BE:F5:25:FD:60
MODE:                                   Infrastructure
FREQ:                                   2412 MHz
RATE:                                   16 MB/s
SIGNAL:                                 0
SECURITY:                               WPA WPA2
ACTIVE:                                 no
SSID:                                   'CIK1000M_AC2.4G_3714'
BSSID:                                  D0:60:8C:03:DB:B4
MODE:                                   Infrastructure
FREQ:                                   2422 MHz
RATE:                                   16 MB/s
SIGNAL:                                 0
SECURITY:                               WPA2
ACTIVE:                                 no

I also tried escaping the :. Can someone explain what I'm doing wrong here?

  • What would you like to replace the lines with? Also why did you put a '\' before SSID?
    – jesse_b
    Commented Oct 26, 2017 at 12:59
  • },\n{ like the end of a json object @Jesse_b Commented Oct 26, 2017 at 13:00
  • Do you want to replace the whole line or just append that value to the end of it?
    – jesse_b
    Commented Oct 26, 2017 at 13:01
  • 1
    it would be better to show the expected result Commented Oct 26, 2017 at 13:02
  • 1
    Your main mistake was to use * as a pattern to be replaced instead of .*. This is not globbing, but regular expression! So, with /^SSID:/ s/.*/},\n{/ it would work.
    – Philippos
    Commented Oct 26, 2017 at 14:38

2 Answers 2


To just substitute the whole line,


If you wanted to keep some or all of the SSID line's contents, then try capturing in the initial regex.

  • Thanks first command works but the second returns line 4: invalid reference \1 on `s' command's RHS Commented Oct 26, 2017 at 13:23
  • 1
    Try it now. I have backslashed the \( \) as it is using non-extended regular expressions. Commented Oct 26, 2017 at 13:27
  • I'm confused as to why you need to escape the brackets. ( isn't a special character in sed is it? Commented Oct 26, 2017 at 14:06
  • Or is it that when you use \( \) it becomes a special character? Commented Oct 26, 2017 at 14:09
  • 1
    See en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Regular_Expressions/…. Basically, sed (and others) have two modes. By default, most characters match exactly. i.e. the expression (abc) will match (abc). In order to use the brackets as groups you must escape them, the expression \(abc\) will match abc with a captured group. With the -E option these are reversed, and (abc) will match abc with a captured group. and you must escape the brackets to match literally. Commented Oct 26, 2017 at 14:11

Your sed expression:

/^SSID:/ s/*/},\n{/

This is almost correct, but * will match a literal * (since it's the first character in the regular expression).

Using your way of addressing the line that you'd like to modify:


This would find any line beginning with the string SSID: and would substitute in },\n{ at the start of those lines.

Note that this requires GNU sed to interpret the escape sequence \n as a newline in the replacement text.

With non-GNU sed, you would write


or, if you did this from the command line with a shell like bash that understands $'...' as a "C string":

sed '$/^SSID:/s/^/},\\\n{/'

(the \\\n is for an escaped \ followed by \n)

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