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I want to replace the 5th line of multiple text files (file1.txt,file2.txt,file3.txt,file4.txt) with the string " Good Morning " using a single terminal command.

All the text files are located on my ~/Desktop.

Note: My desktop consists of 6 .txt files.I want to apply the change to above mentioned 4 text files only.

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up vote 22 down vote accepted

Here are a few approaches. I am using brace expansion (file{1..4}.txt) which means file1.txt file2.txt file3.txt file4.txt

  1. Perl

    perl -i -pe 's/.*/ Good Morning / if $.==5' file{1..4}.txt

    -i : causes perl to edit the files in place, changing the original file.
    -p : means read the input file line by line, apply the script and print it
    -e : allows you to pass a script from the command line
    s/.*/ Good Morning / : That will replace the text in the current line (.*) with Good Morning
    $. is a special Perl variable that holds the current line number of the input file. So, s/foo/bar/ if $.==5, means replace foo with bar only on the 5th line.

  2. sed

    sed -i '5s/.*/ Good Morning /' file{1..4}.txt

    -i : Like for perl, edit file in place.
    By default, sed prints each line of the input file. The 5s/pattern/replacement/ means substitute pattern with replacement on the 5th line.

  3. awk

    for f in file{1..4}.txt; do 
        awk 'NR==5{$0=" Good Morning "}1;' "$f" > foobar && mv foobar "$f"; 

    awk has no equivalent to the -i option1 which means that we need to create a temporary file (foobar) which is then renamed to overwrite the original. The bash loop for f in file{1..4}.txt; do ... ; done simply goes through each of file{1..4}.txt, saving the current file name as $f. In awk, NR is the current line number and $0 is the content of the current line. So, the script will replace the line ($0) with " Good Morning " only on the 5th line. 1; is awk for "print the line".

    1Newer versions do as devnull showed in his answer.

  4. coreutils

    for f in file{1..4}.txt; do 
        (head -4 "$f"; echo " Good Morning "; tail -n +6 "$f") > foobar && 
        mv foobar "$f"; 

    The loop is explained in the previous section.
    head -4 : print the first 4 lines
    echo " Good Morning ": print " Good Morning "
    tail -n +6 : print everything from the 6th line to the end of the file
    The parentheses ( ) around those three commands allow you to capture the output of all three (so, 1st 4 lines, then " Good morning ", then the rest of the lines) and redirect them to a file.


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You could use sed:

sed '5s/^/Good morning /' file

would append Good morning on the fifth line of a file.

If you want to replace the contents on line 5 instead, say:

sed '5s/.*/Good morning/' file

If you wanted to save the changes to the file in-place, use the -i option:

sed -i '5s/.*/Good morning/' file

sed can handle more than one file at a time. You can just add more filenames onto the end of the command. You can also use bash expansions to match particular files:

# manually specified
sed -i '5s/.*/Good morning/' file1.txt file2.txt file3.txt file4.txt

# wildcard: all files on the desktop
sed -i '5s/.*/Good morning/' ~/Desktop/*

# brace expansion: file1.txt, file2.txt, file3.txt, file4.txt
sed -i '5s/.*/Good morning/' file{1..4}.txt

You can read more about brace expansions here.

GNU awk versions 4.1.0 and higher come with an extension that enable in-place editing. So you could say:

gawk -i inplace 'NR==5{$0="Good morning"}7' file

to replace line #5 in the file with Good morning!

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You can use Vim in Ex mode:

for b in 1 2 3 4
  ex -sc '5c|Good Morning' -cx file$b.txt
  1. 5 select 5th line

  2. c replace text

  3. x save and close

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The following is a bash script which wraps up the perl process suggested in this answer




Then run the following:

$ false true 2 /tmp/it

and the file now contains



function show_help()
  IT=$(CAT <<EOF



  false true 52 /tmp/it  -> replaces false with true on line 52 of file /tmp/it

  echo "$IT"

if [ "$1" == "help" ]
if [ -z "$4" ]

perl -i -pe "s/$SEARCH_FOR/$REPLACE_WITH/ if $.==$LINE_NO" $FILE_NAME 
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