Edit stream text or a text file on the command line using wildcards and Simple Expressions with the Swiss File Knife for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux.
sfk ... +xed /from/to/ [/from2/to2/]
a stream text editor using SFK Simple Expressions.
- takes text stream input from a previous command,
or a binary stream from sfk extract.
- joins all lines into one large block that can be
changed in complete.
- splits output again into lines for further use,
or passes output as binary to another +xed.
- may also read and write a single file.
xed/xex is designed to post process small to medium sized
data streams or files. it is not suitable to edit large files
beyond 100 MB, as the whole content must fit into memory
multiple times. use "sfk xreplace" to process large files.
wildcards and SFK expressions
SFK Expressions are simple patterns containing literal text,
wildcards * and ? and character classes in square brackets .
basically, the syntax provides extended wilcards but no
further logic and is not related to regular expressions.
search patterns are surrounded by a separator character which
can be anything not contained in the search text, like / or _
within a pattern /fromtext/totext/the fromtextmay contain:* - 0 to 4000 characters in the same
text line or paragraph, i.e. all
bytes not being CR, LF or NULL.
4000 is just a default maximum
that can be changed by:
[0.100000 chars] - 0 to 100000 characters in the same
text line or paragraph, i.e. the
same as * but with a larger range.
? - one character.
????? - same as [5.5 chars] or [5 chars][bytes] - 0 to 4000 bytes (with CR,LF,NULL)
i.e. it collects stream text
across lines, even in binary data
** - the same as [bytes].
[0.100 bytes] - 0 to 100 bytes
[.100000 bytes] - up to 100000 bytes
[1.* bytes] - 1 to default maximum bytes
[2 chars] - exactly 2 chars
[30 bytes] - exactly 30 bytes
[byte of aeiou] - one vocal (a OR A OR e OR ...),
case insensitive by default.
"aeiou" is a character list.
[byte of \\\x2f] - a backslash \ or forw. slash /
[bytes of \r\n \t] - whitespace incl. line ends
[bytes of (\r\n \t)] - the same, () are optional
[bytes not \r\n\0] - up to 4000 bytes as long as no
CR, LF or NULL byte appears
[chars] - the same as [bytes not \r\n\0],
i.e. collect text in a line
[char not ( \t)] - same as [byte not ( \r\n\0\t)],
everything not blanks and tabs
[char not )( \t] - not brackets, blanks and tabs,
same as not (\(\) \t)[chars of a-z0-9] - means a-zA-Z0-9 as search is
case insensitive by default
[chars of \x61-\x7A] - search a-z but not A-Z, or use
option -case for case search
[eol] - end of line by characters:
CRLF or LF or CR
[white] = chars of (\t ) - 0 or more whitespaces
[xwhite] = bytes of (\t \r\n) - same but across lines
[1 white] = byte of (\t ) - 1 whitespace
[digit] = byte of (0-9) - 1 digit
[digits] = bytes of (0-9) - 0 or more digits
[hexdigit] = byte of (0-9a-f) - 1 hexadecimal digit
[hexdigits] = bytes of (0-9a-f) - 0 or more hex digits
special keywords that do not count as tokens:
[skip] - at the start of a pattern: skip such text
completely, do not count it as a search hit.
[keep] - search also the following text but keep it
in the input data, without consuming it.
[ortext] - foo[ortext]bar searches word foo or bar.
[ortext] is allowed only between literals.
anchors that have no length of their own:
[start] - start of file
[end] - end of file
[lstart] - line start, i.e. start or CRLF or CR or LF
[lend] - logical line end, i.e. eol or end of file.
to replace line ends use [eol] instead.
how to search or replace special characters:
- to search or replace text containing the literal characters
* ? \ [ ] then these must be escaped like \* \? \\ \[ \]
- ( ) are escaped only within character lists, like \( \)
- to search or replace the forward slash '/' type \x2f or use
another char around from/to text, e.g. _fromtext_totext_
- parameters with blanks and non trivial characters need double
quotes "", see also "about Shell Command Characters" below.
expansion priorities: (highest first)
if two search parts are side by side, and the same input
character matches both, then these priorities apply:
5: start, end, lstart, lend
4: literal text, eol
3: whitelist classes: byte of, bytes of
2: blacklist classes: chars not, bytes not
1: plain wildcards: ?, *, **, byte, bytes, chars
this means in "/[bytes]foo/" the [bytes] will stop to collect
characters as soon as "foo" is found, as "foo" is a literal.
on same or higher priority the right side stops the left side.
the totextmay contain:[part 1] use first text part of the fromtext.
e.g. the fromtext /*foo[.100 chars]bar*/
contains parts : 1 2 3 4 5[part1] the same (blank is optional).
[parts 1,2,3] use parts 1, 2 and 3.
[parts 1-10] use parts 1 to 10.
[strip(part1,\0)] use part 1 but remove zero bytes.
only zero bytes "\0" can be removed.
[file.name] full input filename with path
[file.relname] input filename without path
[file.path] input file's path
[file.base] relname without last .extension
[file.ext] input filename extension
[all] use all parts from fromtext.
[setvar name]...[endvar] set variable "name" with data
between setvar and endvar.
[getvar name] fill in data from variable "name"
although anchors like lstart, lend count as a separate part
they need NOT be specified in the totext. this means that
/[lstart]foo[lend]/bar/ just changes the word "foo".
supported slash patterns\t = TAB
\r = CR
\n = LF
\x00 = one byte with code 00 hexadecimal
\0 = short form for \x00
\q = a double quote "
\\ = the backslash character \ itself
\[ = the bracket open character [
\] = the bracket close character ]
\* = the literal star character *
\? = the literal question mark ?
\- = to use literal "-" in a command
Within multi line -bylist files:
\ = slash+blank is changed to a single blank
Only within "char of" or "byte not" lists:
\( = to use literal character "("
\) = to use literal character ")"
SFK expression options
-showpart(s) print /from/ part numbers, range statistics
and expansion priority points per part.
done automatically if a required /to/ text
is not given with a command.
-showbest if a /from/ pattern finds nothing, use this to
see how many parts would match so far, and with
up to how many bytes per part. anchors like [lstart]
may show a non zero length when matching (CR)LF.
-showlist with -bylist, show the internal joined list if
commands are spread across multiple lines.
-showall show all of the above.
-xmaxlen=n set default maximum length for chars or bytes commands,
e.g. -xmaxlen=10000 means /foo*bar/ matches with up to
10000 characters between foo and bar. the default max
length without this option is 4000 characters.
- always use a string literal, or single byte or char, at the start
of your search expressions, like in /foo*bar/ starting with 'f'.Do not use a wildcard like * at the start like in /*foobar/
when searching huge input data, as your search will slow down byfactor 256. Use /[lstart]*foobar/ instead.
- the system may cache output file(s), writing to disk in background
after sfk has finished. subsequent batch commands may execute slower.
-case compare case sensitive, default is nocase.
for further options see: sfk help nocase
-bylist x read /from/to/ patterns from a file x,
supporting multiple lines per pattern.
for details type: sfk rep -full
-bylinelist x read /from/to/ or just /from/ patterns
from a file with one pattern per line.
best for searching many phrases with
simple or no output reformatting.
-i process text stream from standard input
-tolines force output as text lines. use this
if you get unexpected hex data.
-nomark do not highlight changes in output
-nocol no colors at all to allow more memory
-write if input filename is given, rewrite file
with the changed data.
-tofile f write output to file f. do not use +tofile
chaining as it splits data into text lines.
-rawterm on output to terminal do not strip codes
below 32. Null bytes are always stripped.
-dump[raw] create hex dump [raw = w/o eol highlight]
-crlf, -lf for file headers and default totext: force
crlf or lf line endings instead of default
-justrc print no output, just set return code.
-firsthit use only first matching result.
chaining I/O supportextract ... +xed supports binary data transfer.
xed ... +xed supports binary data transfer.
In all other cases like xed ... +filter data is passed
as text lines without zero bytes and up to 4000 chars
per line. Binary transfer needs four times free memory
available then the actual number of bytes passed.
unexpected hex data with xed chaining
if you use xed and get an unexpected hex output
like 746573746... it means a following command
cannot handle stream data. use option -tolines then.
unexpected line breaks with +tofile
happen if lines are longer then 4096 chars.
use -tofile instead.
happen if data contains carriage return chars.
add "/\r//" to remove them.
see alsosfk swap change single line character order
web access support
extracting the head section from a web page can be done like:
sfk xex http://192.168.1.100/ "_<head>**</head>_"sfk xex http://.100/ "_<head>**</head>_"sfk web .100 +xex "_<head>**</head>_"archive file reading
xed may directly read archive file entries like
src.zip\\sub1.bz2\\sub2.tar.gz. for details and
limitations type "sfk help xe".
beware of Shell Command Characters.
to find or replace text patterns containing spaces or special
characters like <>|!&?* you must add quotes "" around parameters
or the shell environment will destroy your command. for example,
pattern /foo bar/other/ must be written like "/foo bar/other/"
within a .bat or .cmd file the percent % must be escaped like %%
even within quotes: sfk echo -spat "percent %% is a percent \x25"unexpected repeat replace behaviour
depending on the input data and search/replace expressions,
it can happen that running the same replace multiple times
on the same stream produces further hits that didn't exist
in the first run. read the sfk replace extended help text
by "sfk replace -full" for details.
quoted multi line parameters are supported in scripts
using full trim. type "sfk script" for details.
return codes for batch files
0 = no matches, 1 = matches found, >1 = major error occurred.
see also "sfk help opt" on how to influence error processing.
about example numbers with [brackets]
if you see  type "sfk cmd 1" for whole command in one line.
web referencehttp://stahlworks.com/sfk-xedmore in the SFK Book
the SFK Book contains a 60 page tutorial, including
detailed xed examples with input, script and output.
type "sfk book" for details.
Note: also see "sfk xex" for further examples.
sfk xed in.txt "/foo*bar/goo/" -tofile out.txt
read from file in.txt, replace "foo" and "bar" with
up to 4000 characters inbetween, in the same line,
by the word "goo". write output to a file out.txt.
sfk xed in.txt "/foo*bar/goo/" -write
same as above, but replace within file in.txt
sfk xed in.html "/<!--**-->//" -tofile out.html
remove all remark blocks starting with "<!--" and
ending with "-->", across any number of lines,
with up to 4000 bytes, from the HTML code.
sfk xex in.zip\\sub1.tar.bz2\\sub2.tar.gz\\Trace.hpp "/class*/"
XE: extract phrases starting with "class" from a
.tar.gz within a .tar.bz2 within a .zip file.
sfk xed in.txt /foo12/foo34/ /foo34/foo12/ -tofile out.txt
swaps foo12 and foo34. with xed, replaced text is not
replaced again by further patterns in the same command.
sfk xed in.dat -dump"/\x66\x6f\x6f[0.100 bytes]\x62\x61\x72/---/"
replace binary data starting with bytes 0x66, 0x6f, 0x6f,
ending with 0x62, 0x61, 0x72 and up to 100 bytes inbetween
by "---" and show a hex dump of the output data. 
add -tofile out.dat to write the output data to a file.
sfk xed in.csv "/*\t*\t*Genway Rd*/[parts 1,2,5,6,7,2,3]/"
a tab separated CSV file with name, road, city like
Bemond Furn. Ltd 147 Elney Rd Hertford NY 83058
Candale Design Ltd Seattle KS 51028 868 Genway Rd
Betree Furn. Ltd 311 Napton Rd Portland NC 97702
contains wrong records with "Genway Rd" in the 3rd column.
fix only these records by swapping column 2 and 3.
part 2 is just a tab character, used twice in output.
sfk xed in.txt "/\r//" +xed "_[lstart]\* [bytes][keep]\n\* [ortext]\n\n_<li>[part3]</li>_"
change a plain text enumeration like 
* first item is
a double line text
followed by an empty line to HTML code like
<li>first item is
a double line text</li>
things to consider:
- each enum paragraph ends at another line
starting with * or at an empty line \n\n
- windows text files use \r\n line endings,
so to allow a convenient \n\n search for
empty lines use /\r// first. this must be
done as a separate +xed, otherwise the edited
line ends are skipped in further searches.
- we cannot search the line ends by [eol]
as [ortext] requires pure literals like \n.
- the [keep] tells to search until \n* but
not to consume this, i.e. further searches
can re-find and replace it as [lstart]*sfk version -own +filter -stabform "$col5" +setvar ver+then xed info.xml "=<program_version>**</program_version>=[part1][getvar ver][part3]="
get the version number from sfk, store it in an sfk
variable "var" and fill this into info.xml by changing
the text within the program_version tag. because both /
and _ chars are used in the xml data we use another
delimiter character "=". 
sfk xed in.txt "/[eol]/, /" +xed "/[60 chars]*, /[all]\n/"
if in.txt contains only one short word per line
reformat this as a comma separated text using
at least 60 characters per line.
sfk xed in.txt "/*[eol]/\q[part1]\q, /"+xed "/[60 chars]*, /[all]\n/"
same as above, but surrounding words by quotes.
sfk xex foo.h +setvar a +then xed bar.c"/[lstart]#include \qfoo.h\q*[eol]/[getvar a]/"
replace a text line: #include "foo.h"
within file bar.c by the file content of foo.h
sfk echo aabbccdd +xed "/[2 chars][2 chars][2 chars][2 chars]/[parts 4,3,2,1]/"
produces ddccbbaa, i.e. it swaps 4 blocks of
2 chars each. (little endian conversion)