I have an xml file that contains the tag </w:rPr> several times.

It is used like this


However the content between the tag itself is sometimes different. Could there be a way to use sed or something other to delete everything between <w:rPr> and </w:rPr> and then both tags as well?

The relevant namespace


And the file itself (formatted, valid XML)

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8" standalone="yes"?>
<root xmlns:w="http://schemas.openxmlformats.org/wordprocessingml/2006/main">
    <w:lvl w:ilvl="0">
          TO REMOVE
        <w:rFonts w:ascii="Symbol" w:hAnsi="Symbol" w:hint="default"/>
  • can't be done. Too many characters.
    – Felix
    Jan 8, 2020 at 15:50

1 Answer 1



please, never ever use for this task !

Everytime you use sed for html or xml, you kill a kitty

It's a task for

(a proper XML parser) and his friend , like this:

xmlstarlet ed \
           -L \
           -N w="http://schemas.openxmlformats.org/wordprocessingml/2006/main" \
           -d '//w:rPr' file.xml

A bit of explanations :

  • -L edit the file on the fly like sed -i
  • -N set the XML namespace, if needed
  • -d remove nodes matching xpath expression

Check xmlstarlet edit --help

Using basex

Pure XQuery solution:

$ cat XQuery
declare namespace w = "http://schemas.openxmlformats.org/wordprocessingml/2006/main";    
copy $input := doc("/dev/stdin")
modify delete node $input//w:rPr
return $input

$ basex XQuery < file.xml

Using XQuery and xidel:

With limited XQuery capabilities.

xidel --xml --xquery '
    declare namespace w = "http://schemas.openxmlformats.org/wordprocessingml/2006/main";
    x:replace-nodes(//w:rPr, ())
' file.xml 

theory :

According to the compiling theory, XML/HTML can't be parsed using regex based on finite state machine. Due to hierarchical construction of XML/HTML you need to use a pushdown automaton and manipulate LALR grammar using tool like YACC.

realLife©®™ everyday tool in a :

You can use one of the following :

  • xmllint often installed by default with libxml2, xpath1
  • xmlstarlet can edit, select, transform... Not installed by default, XPath1
  • xpath installed via Perl's module XML::XPath, XPath1
  • BaseX not installed by default, package basex, full XQuery 3.1
  • xidel XPath3, partial XQuery 3 (no Update)
  • saxon-lint my own project, wrapper over @Michael Kay's Saxon-HE Java library, XPath3

or you can use high level languages and proper libs, I think of :

's lxml (from lxml import etree)

's XML::LibXML, XML::XPath, XML::Twig::XPath, HTML::TreeBuilder::XPath

, check this example

DOMXpath, check this example

Check: Using regular expressions with HTML tags

enter image description here

  • Would it help to provide you with the complete file? Tbh I don't know anything about xml. Hence my thought of using sed.
    – Felix
    Jan 8, 2020 at 15:39
  • Sure it will help ! :) Jan 8, 2020 at 15:40
  • 1
    Schroedinger's kitty?
    – bu5hman
    Jan 8, 2020 at 17:12
  • 1
    Thank you so much! This has been helpful and saved me!!
    – Felix
    Jan 8, 2020 at 20:27

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