How can I replace text in the last non-blank line?

I want to find the last line of text in a file, and delete the comma at the end of it. I asked about this already, but, after I got an answer I realized my question was not specific enough.

This sed command will go to the last line of a file and take action on it. In my case, I want to remove the trailing comma:

sed -i '$ s/",/"/g' file.txt

So this:

blah blah blah,
blah blah blah,
blah blah blah,

… becomes this:

blah blah blah,
blah blah blah,
blah blah blah

However, this won’t work if there are blank lines after the last line of text in the file.

I’ve been searching for ways to get the last line of text but haven’t come up with anything that I can understand and apply. I’ve also looked for ways to remove all trailing blank lines, and found this command:

sed -e :a -e '/^\n*$/{$d;N;ba' -e '}' *.txt

But it doesn’t work for me (it just seems to output the contents of my files on the command line). In any case, it’s inelegant. I’d rather not delete the trailing blank lines, it would be much better to just identify the last line with text in it and act on that.

How do I remove the comma from the last line of text in multiple files in a directory?

Here is Solutions:

We have many solutions to this problem, But we recommend you to use the first solution because it is tested & true solution that will 100% work for you.

Solution 1

On large files, use Guru’s answer, it’s faster. On small files (<25 lines), however, I found this to be slightly faster (assuming you have GNU tac):

tac file | awk '!/^[[:blank:]]*$/{i++;if(i==1){sub(",$","")}}1' | tac

Solution 2

If a Perl solution is ok for you:

 perl -00pe 's/(.*),/$1/s' file

To save the changes in the file itself:

perl -i -00pe 's/(.*),/$1/s' file

To apply this on multiple files:

perl -i -00pe 's/(.*),/$1/s' *.txt

Solution 3

sed can be put into multi-line search & replace mode so that it can handle the entire file contents as a single line in “pattern space”.

(Note: FreeBSD sed requires the option sequence -n -i -e for correct in-place file editing.)

# delete the last , in the last non-empty line of a file
# cf.

cat -n testfile

sed -n -i -e '
# if the first line copy the pattern to the hold buffer
# if not the first line then append the pattern to the hold buffer
# if the last line then ...
$ {
# copy from the hold to the pattern buffer
# remove last , in last non-empty line of file 
}' testfile

Solution 4


perl -0777 -p -i -e 's/,(\n*)\Z/\1/m' *.txt

will remove the last ‘,’ in all files ending in .txt, if the ‘,’ is followed only by 0-or-more newline characters then the end of the file.

From your example:

[email protected]:~/tmp $ cat > test.txt
blah blah blah,
blah blah blah,
blah blah blah,

[email protected]:~/tmp $ perl -0777 -p -i -e 's/,(\n*)\Z/\1/m' *.txt
[email protected]:~/tmp $ cat test.txt
blah blah blah,
blah blah blah,
blah blah blah

[email protected]:~/tmp $ 


Perl is an esoteric beast at the best of times, and perl one-liners can be particularly cryptic.

The -e flag allows us to pass a perl program on the command line. In this case, the ‘s/regex/replace/flags’ is the program.

The -p flag causes perl to apply your supplied program in a loop over each “line” (see -0) for each filename provided.

The -i flag causes perl to replace the file with the output of the program, rather than printing the output to standard out.

The -0 flag changes what delimiter perl uses to break a file into “lines”. 0777 is a special value, used by convention to make perl read the entire file into a single “line”.

The regular expression is somewhat complicated by the use of a few perl-specific tricks:

  • First, the m flag at the end causes the regex to operate on
    multiple lines.
  • , is simple, and matches a single, literal comma.
  • (\n*) matches 0-or-more newlines in a row, and stores them as a
    subpattern (the ( and ) characters denote a subpattern). As this
    is the first subpattern, we can use \1 in the replacement section
    to mean “whatever this subpattern matched”.
  • \Z is a perl specific extension, and matches the end of the string
    being worked with — in this case, that’s the entire file.
  • In the replacement part, we use \1 to replace the match with only
    the series of newlines, removing the comma.

For man information on perl regular expressions and perl command line flags, check out the man pages for perlre and perlrun respectively.

Note: Use and implement solution 1 because this method fully tested our system.
Thank you 🙂

All methods was sourced from or, is licensed under cc by-sa 2.5, cc by-sa 3.0 and cc by-sa 4.0

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