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How to search a directory tree for all files containing specific text string on Linux using the command line. This tutorial will help you to search all files matching a string recursively. This tutorial uses “grep” command to search string in files. Alternatively, You can also also use the find command to search files with specific string.


grep -rwl “search-string” /path/to/serch/dir

1. Search Single String in All Files

Below example command will search string “tecadmin” in all files in /var/log directory and its sub-directories.

grep -rlw "tecadmin" /var/log 


2. Search Multiple String in All Files

You can also specify multiple strings to search using -e switch. This is similar to egrep command. Below example will search strings “tecadmin” and “https” in all files in /var/log directory and its sub-directories.

grep -rlw -e "tecadmin" -e "https"  /var/log

3. Search String in Specific Files

You can search string in files matching the file name criteria. Below example command will search string “tecadmin” in files ending with .log extension in /var/log directory and its sub-directories.

grep -rlw --include="*.log" -e "tecadmin" /var/log

4. Exclude Some Files from Search

If you want to exclude some files matching file name criteria. You can exclude some files using –exclude option in command. For example, do not search file ending with .txt extension.

grep -rlw --exclude="*.txt" -e "tecadmin" /var/log

5. Exclude Some Directories from Search

You can also exclude some directoires to skip search inside it. For example, do not search string files inside any folder having http in their name.

grep -rlw --exclude-dir="*http*" -e "tecadmin" /var/log

Frequently Uses Command Switches

Below is the frequently uses grep command switches. To list all switches details use grep --help command.

-r, --recursive           	Search files recursively
-R, --dereference-recursive     Search files recursively and follow symlinks
    --include=FILE_PATTERN      search only files that match FILE_PATTERN
    --exclude=FILE_PATTERN      skip files and directories matching FILE_PATTERN
    --exclude-from=FILE   	skip files matching any file pattern from FILE
    --exclude-dir=PATTERN 	directories that match PATTERN will be skipped.
-L, --files-without-match 	Print file names containing no match
-l, --files-with-matches  	Print string containing file names only
-i, --ignore-case         	ignore case of search string
-e, --regexp=PATTERN      	Use patter to search or specify multiple search strings
-w, --word-regexp         	force to match whole words 

Post Author: hwq


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