How to substitute shell variables in complex text files

LinuxShellString Interpolation

Linux Problem Overview

I have several text files in which I have introduced shell variables ($VAR1 or $VAR2 for instance).

I would like to take those files (one by one) and save them in new files where all variables would have been replaced.

To do this, I used the following shell script (found on StackOverflow):

while read line
    eval echo "$line" >> destination.txt
done < "source.txt"

This works very well on very basic files.

But on more complex files, the "eval" command does too much:

  • Lines starting with "#" are skipped

  • XML files parsing results in tons of errors

Is there a better way to do it? (in shell script... I know this is easily done with Ant for instance)

Kind regards

Linux Solutions

Solution 1 - Linux

Looking, it turns out on my system there is an envsubst command which is part of the gettext-base package.

So, this makes it easy:

envsubst < "source.txt" > "destination.txt"

Note if you want to use the same file for both, you'll have to use something like moreutil's sponge, as suggested by Johnny Utahh: envsubst < "source.txt" | sponge "source.txt". (Because the shell redirect will otherwise empty the file before its read.)

Solution 2 - Linux

In reference to answer 2, when discussing envsubst, you asked:

> How can I make it work with the variables that are declared in my .sh script?

The answer is you simply need to export your variables before calling envsubst.

You can also limit the variable strings you want to replace in the input using the envsubst SHELL_FORMAT argument (avoiding the unintended replacement of a string in the input with a common shell variable value - e.g. $HOME).

For instance:

export VAR1='somevalue' VAR2='someothervalue'

envsubst "$MYVARS" <source.txt >destination.txt

Will replace all instances of $VAR1 and $VAR2 (and only VAR1 and VAR2) in source.txt with 'somevalue' and 'someothervalue' respectively.

Solution 3 - Linux

I know this topic is old, but I have a simpler working solution without exporting the variables. Can be a oneliner, but I prefer to split using \ on line end.

envsubst '$var1,$var3' < "source.txt" > "destination.txt"

#         ^^^^^^^^^^^    ^^^^^^^^^^     ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
# define which to replace   input            output

The variables need to be defined to the same line as envsubst is to get considered as environment variables.

The '$var1,$var3' is optional to only replace the specified ones. Imagine an input file containing ${VARIABLE_USED_BY_JENKINS} which should not be replaced.

Solution 4 - Linux

  1. Define your ENV variable

$ export MY_ENV_VAR=congratulation

2. Create template file (in.txt) with following content


You can also use all other ENV variables defined by your system like (in linux) $TERM, $SHELL, $HOME...

  1. Run this command to raplace all env-variables in your in.txt file and to write the result to out.txt

$ envsubst "`printf '${%s} ' $(sh -c "env|cut -d'=' -f1")`" < in.txt > out.txt

4. Check the content of out.txt file

$ cat out.txt

and you should see "congratulation".

Solution 5 - Linux

If you want env variables to be replaced in your source files while keeping all of the non env variables as they are, you can use the following command:

envsubst "$(printf '${%s} ' $(env | sed 's/=.*//'))" < source.txt > destination.txt

The syntax for replacing only specific variables is explained here. The command above is using a sub-shell to list all defined variables and then passing it to the envsubst

So if there's a defined env variable called $NAME, and your source.txt file looks like this:

Hello $NAME
Your balance is 123 ($USD)

The destination.txt will be:

Hello Arik
Your balance is 123 ($USD)

Notice that the $NAME is replaced and the $USD is left untouched

Solution 6 - Linux

There is also this option:

define your variables in a file
$ cat variables.env 
# info about what this var is
export var1=a
# info about var again
export var2=b
define a template file that uses the variables
$ cat file1-template.txt
This is var1: "${var1}"
This is var2: "${var2}"
generate the final file, with variables replaced with values
$ source variables.env
$ envsubst < file1-template.txt > file1.txt
$ cat file1.txt 
This is var1: "a"
This is var2: "b"

Solution 7 - Linux

while IFS='=' read -r name value ; do
    # Print line if found variable
    sed -n '/${'"${name}"'}/p' docker-compose.yml
    # Replace variable with value. 
    sed -i 's|${'"${name}"'}|'"${value}"'|' docker-compose.yml
done < <(env)

Note: Variable name or value should not contain "|", because it is used as a delimiter.

Solution 8 - Linux

If you really only want to use bash (and sed), then I would go through each of your environment variables (as returned by set in posix mode) and build a bunch of -e 'regex' for sed from that, terminated by a -e 's/\$[a-zA-Z_][a-zA-Z0-9_]*//g', then pass all that to sed.

Perl would do a nicer job though, you have access to the environment vars as an array and you can do executable replacements so you only match any environment variable once.

Solution 9 - Linux

Actually you need to change your read to read -r which will make it ignore backslashes.

Also, you should escape quotes and backslashes. So

while read -r line; do
  eval echo "\"$line\""
done > destination.txt < source.txt

Still a terrible way to do expansion though.

Solution 10 - Linux

Export all the needed variables and then use a perl onliner

TEXT=$(echo "$TEXT"|perl -wpne 's#\${?(\w+)}?# $ENV{$1} // $& #ge;')

This will replace all the ENV variables present in TEXT with actual values. Quotes are also preserved :)

Solution 11 - Linux

Call the perl binary, in search and replace per line mode ( the -pi ) by running the perl code ( the -e) in the single quotes, which iterates over the keys of the special %ENV hash containing the exported variable names as keys and the exported variable values as the keys' values and for each iteration simple replace a string containing a $<<key>> with its <<value>>.

 perl -pi -e 'foreach $key(sort keys %ENV){ s/\$$key/$ENV{$key}/g}' file

Caveat: An additional logic handling is required for cases in which two or more vars start with the same string ...

Solution 12 - Linux

envsubst seems exactly like something I wanted to use, but -v option surprised me a bit.

While envsubst < template.txt was working fine, the same with option -v was not working:

$ cat /etc/redhat-release
Red Hat Enterprise Linux Server release 7.1 (Maipo)
$ envsubst -V
envsubst (GNU gettext-runtime) 0.18.2
Copyright (C) 2003-2007 Free Software Foundation, Inc.
License GPLv3+: GNU GPL version 3 or later <>
This is free software: you are free to change and redistribute it.
There is NO WARRANTY, to the extent permitted by law.
Written by Bruno Haible.

As I wrote, this was not working:

$ envsubst -v < template.txt
envsubst: missing arguments
$ cat template.txt | envsubst -v
envsubst: missing arguments

I had to do this to make it work:

TEXT=`cat template.txt`; envsubst -v "$TEXT"

Maybe it helps someone.


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