I need to include file, but I want to manipulate it directly from PDFLaTeX. I must remove any text which is betweem \{ and \}, including backslashes and parenthesis. I have tried many escaping options, but the best I could get it this and it is not working:

\input{|"cat cxf.tex | sed 's|\\{.*\\}||g'"}

Is this possible at all?

  • Welcome to TeX.SE. Are you open to using LuaLaTeX instead of pdfLaTeX?
    – Mico
    Jul 10, 2019 at 14:30

2 Answers 2


This works for me (with pdflatex -shell-escape, of course) and prints just “abc”.




\input{|"cat \jobname-test.tex | sed 's|\string\\{.*\string\\}||g'"}


The issue is that TeX performs macro expansion on the argument to \input; with \string\\ we nullify the macro nature of \\.

I use \jobname just for avoiding the risk of clobbering my files.

If you want a non-greedy replacement, it's a bit more complicated (you could use Perl, instead). The search string should be something like


This can be more easily accomplished by defining the string beforehand:




\input{|"cat \jobname-test.tex | sed 's|\searchstring||g'"}


In this case the output would by “abcghi”.

  • 1
    +1 :) just wondered if the match might be .*? so as to be non-greedy?
    – cmhughes
    Jul 10, 2019 at 17:38
  • @cmhughes As far as I know, sed doesn't support non-greedy search strings.
    – egreg
    Jul 10, 2019 at 17:47

Assuming you're free to use LuaLaTeX, and assuming further that the material between \{ and \} (including the delimiters) is all on one line, the following solution should work just fine for you.

The solution consists of a Lua function (stored in an external file) and two LaTeX macros; the first assigns the Lua function to the process_input_buffer callback, making it act like a preprocessor, and the second removes the preprocessor-like operation of the Lua function.

enter image description here

The pattern-matching operation, "\\{.-\\}", uses .- rather than -* to match "zero or more instances of any character". Observe that using -* would be a mistake here, as it would make Lua perform a "greedy" match and thus inappropriately obliterate the middle substring, uvw.

%% External file with "\{ ... \}" material
$abc \{...\} uvw \{ \int_0^1 \} xyz$

abc\{ ... \}uvw\{ \int_0^1 \}xyz

% Place the Lua code in a separate external file
function remove_braced_stuff ( s )
   return ( s:gsub ( "\\{.-\\}" , "" ) )

%% Load the Lua function from the external file

%% Two utility LaTeX macros
  luatexbase.add_to_callback ( "process_input_buffer" , 
    remove_braced_stuff , "removestuff" )}}
  luatexbase.remove_from_callback ( "process_input_buffer" , 
    "removestuff" )}}

\RemoveBracedStuff % Enable the Lua function
\input cxf % Load the external file

\DontRemoveBracedStuff % Disable the Lua function
%% remainder of document

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