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UNIX in a Nutshell: System V Edition

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Previous: 6.1 Filenames Versus Patterns Chapter 6
Pattern Matching
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6.2 Metacharacters, Listed by UNIX Program

Some metacharacters are valid for one program but not for another. Those that are available to a UNIX program are marked by a bullet (·) in the table below. Full descriptions are provided after the table.

Symbol ed ex vi sed awk grep egrep Action
. · · · · · · · Match any character.
* · · · · · · · Match zero or more preceding.
^ · · · · · · · Match beginning of line.
$ · · · · · · · Match end of line.
\ · · · · · · · Escape character following.
[ ] · · · · · · · Match one from a set.
\( \) · · · Store pattern for later replay.
\{ \} · · · Match a range of instances.
\< \> · · · Match word's beginning or end.
+ · · Match one or more preceding.
? · · Match zero or one preceding.
| · · Separate choices to match.
( ) · · Group expressions to match.

In ed, ex, and sed, note that you specify both a search pattern (on the left) and a replacement pattern (on the right). The metacharacters above are meaningful only in a search pattern.

In ed, ex, and sed, the following additional metacharacters are valid only in a replacement pattern:

Symbol ex sed ed Action
\ · · · Escape character following.
\ n · · · Reuse pattern stored in \( \).
& · · Reuse previous search pattern.
~ · Reuse previous replacement pattern.
\u \U · Change character(s) to uppercase.
\l \L · Change character(s) to lowercase.
\E · Turn off previous \U or \L .
\e · Turn off previous \u or \l .


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