Tomasz Pewinski

Using xargs, sed and pipes


Upon migrating my blog to new engine, I had to rename bunch of article files.

As is: source/2012/09/17/Using-xargs-and-sed.markdown

Should be: source/2012-09-17-using-xargs-and-sed.markdown

So basically to move files from nested directories into source directory, downcasing and adding a prefix of year-month-day.


Combination of find, xargs, tr and sed:

find source/20??/**/*.markdown |
xargs -n1 sh -c 'echo $0 && echo $0 | tr "[:upper:]" "[:lower:]" | sed -e s/\\//-/g -e s/^source-/source\\//' |
xargs -n2 mv

In the first line, we list all article files, using wildcards.

Then we’re piping the output to xargs with -n1 switch, and a command. This will invoke the command for every (-n1) line passing it as argument. The trick is, command to invoke is actually a new shell process with its own instructions passed after -c switch!

In the subshell, we first print the original path ($0, because it was the argumant passed to the shell). Then the path is processed:

  • tr "[:upper:]" "[:lower:]" converts it to lower-case letters
  • we’re using sed with two -e switches:
    • s/\\//-/g - replaces every occurence of / for -. I had to use \\/ because it is interpolated to string, being an argument to sh -c command.
    • s/^source-/source\\// - restore first slash after source
  • no more pipes so processed path is printed to stdout.

Now we have multiple lines of paths, original, then processed and so on:


Piping that to xargs -n2 mv will invoke mv passing consecutive pairs of lines, which is just what we wanted!

mv source/2012/09/17/Using-xargs-and-sed.markdown source/2012-09-17-using-xargs-and-sed.markdown

Have a better / more obvious solution? Let me know in the comments. Meanwhile, <3 UNIX.

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