How to Search for Text within Files and Folders in Linux

Search for Text

The following tutorial will show you how to search for specific text within many files and folders in a GNU/Linux distribution using a single line of command.

If you are a developer, a web programmer, or someone who works with many files and you need to find a single piece of text, you should know and memorize a single command you can use on any Linux-based system.

For example, let’s say you have a directory containing 30 folders and 20,000 files. It doesn’t matter the extension of the files contained in these folders as they can be whatever crosses your mind, e.g. .txt, .php, .css, .js, etc.

You need to quickly find a single word or several within these files. What do you do? Of course, looking into every single files would be mission impossible, so here’s Linux’s grep command to the rescue.

The grep (global regular expression print) command is very powerful and probably the most versatile of Linux commands. It’s main purpose is to search patterns in each file, but it supports complex rules.

So, to search for text within thousands of files contained in a hierarchy of folders, you only need a single line of command that you can run on a terminal emulator.

grep -rnw '/path' -e 'text'

That’s it! With this command, you will be able to search for text in hundreds or thousands of files, just replace the /path string with path you want to search the text in, and the text string with the text you want to find.

For a quick example, let’s say I want to find the word “Menu” in a directory called “9to5linux” containing 305 items (including files and folders) in my Home directory. The command I would use is grep -rnw '/home/marius/9to5linux/' -e 'Menu'.

Here I’m searching for the word “marius” in my entire file system

The best part about grep is that it’s aware of case sensitive searches, so you can find words containing capital letters, numbers, or any other characters. Of course, you can also search just for numbers.

Last updated 2 years ago

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