Ubuntu – command-line utility app which can find a specific block of lines in a text file, and replace it

command linesearchsoftware-recommendationtext;

UPDATE (see end of question)

The text "search and replace" utility programs I've seen, seem to only search on a line-by-line basis…

Is there a command-line tool which can locate one block of lines (in a text file), and replace it with another block of lines.?

For example: Does the test file file contain this exact group of lines:

'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,  
And the mome raths outgrabe. 

'Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!'

I want this, so that I can replace multiple lines of text in a file and know I'm not overwriting the wrong lines.

I would never replace "The Jabberwocky" (Lewis Carroll), but it makes a novel example 🙂

..(sub-update) My following comment about reasons when not use sed are only in the context of; don't push any tool too far beyond its design intent (I use sed quite often, and consider it to be invaluable.)

I just now found an interesting web page about sed and when not to use it.
So, because of all the sed answers, I"ll post the link.. it is part of the sed FAQ on sourceforge

Also, I'm pretty sure there is some way diff can do the job of locating the block of text (once it's located, the replacement is quite straight foward; using head and tail) … 'diff' dumps all the necessary data, but I haven't yet worked out how to filter it , … (I'm still working on it)

Best Answer

This simple python script should do the task:

#!/usr/bin/env python

# Syntax: multiline-replace.py input.txt search.txt replacement.txt

import sys

inp = open(sys.argv[1]).read()
needle = open(sys.argv[2]).read()
replacement = open(sys.argv[3]).read()


Like most other solutions, it has the disadvantage that the whole file is slurped into memory at once. For small text files, it should work well enough, however.