there are similar questions here but none matches my problem exactly.

How do I remove only the first blank line from a file using sed?

Let's say I have




And I want



As output.

  • Do you need to use sed? awk 'a||$0;!$0{a=1}' – Kevin May 11 '13 at 13:56
  • @Kevin, $0 resolve to false if the line is empty or resolves to a numerical 0 (like 00 or 0.0 or 0e12...). Use $0 != "" instead. Test for NF for non-blank lines. – Stéphane Chazelas May 11 '13 at 14:15
  • @StephaneChazelas Right, not enough coffee. awk 'a||NF;!NF{a=1}' – Kevin May 11 '13 at 14:37

See the sed FAQ here:

$ sed '0,/^$/{//d}' lines



Note this only removes truly empty lines, if you want to consider lines with whitespace you would use

$ sed '0,/^[[:space:]]*$/{//d}' lines


  • That's not standard sed syntax though. – Stéphane Chazelas May 11 '13 at 14:11
  • @Stephane The link states several non-GNU sed alternatives, though. – Adrian Frühwirth May 11 '13 at 14:13

You can use sed to read up to the first blank line, and then use cat to read the rest which would be the most efficient for big files:

{ sed -n '/./!q;p'; cat; } < the-file

It only works with regular files though (not with pipes because sed reads data by blocks and can't seek back to the line after the one where q was called if the input is not seekable). As noted by @peterph, With GNU sed version 4.2.2 and above, you can add the -u flag which causes GNU sed to read its input one byte at a time (and output one line at a time) and removes the problem with pipes (though degrading performance).

  • GNU sed (at least) has the -u option which should reduce buffering. – peterph May 13 '13 at 9:44
  • @peterph, with -u, GNU sed will still read data by blocks (4k according to strace with sed 4.2.1, eglibc 2.13, Linux amd64) so it won't help here. I've clarified what I meant by buffering. – Stéphane Chazelas May 13 '13 at 10:56
  • 1
    GNU sed 4.2.2 does a 1B read here in cat file | sed -u. – peterph May 13 '13 at 11:19
  • @peterph, Indeed, that's a new feature added in 4.2.2 (see commit log) – Stéphane Chazelas May 13 '13 at 13:01

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