Article by:
Date Published:
Last Modified:


find is a UNIX utility program which searches directory trees for files matching particular patterns.

By default, find is recursive. It searches from the specified directory and looks in all sub-directories.

By default, the search pattern uses glob-style pattern matching (not regex). However, regex can be supplied with the -regex option (more )

Find File By Name

A common use case is using find to find files which match a specific glob pattern. For example, if you wanted to find all C++ header files (.hpp) in the current directory and all subdirectories (remember, find is recursive by default), you would use:

$ find . -name '*.cpp'

You have to provide the * at the start because find matches against the whole path (it doesn’t allow partial matches).

Multiple Patterns

You can provide find with multiple patterns by using the -o option.

The following example looks for all files with the .cpp or .hpp file extension in the current directory.

$ find . -name "*.cpp" -o -name "*.hpp"

Find In Path

The -name option only searches in the filename, but not the path in which the file sits. If you want to find matches against the path, use the -path option instead. The following example will find all paths that contain the string image:

$ find . -path '*image*'

Note that the path includes the filename, so you’ll find matches in the file name also. Replace -path with -ipath to make the pattern case insensitive.

As far as I know, the -wholename option is identical to -path. I believe -path is more portable, being part of the POSIX 2008 standard.

Using Regex

You can use the -regex flag to use regex search patterns instead of glob. For example, to find all images in your current directory that have a filename made of numbers, you could use:

$ find . -regex '\./[0-9]+\.jpg'

Note that find always lists files in the current directory with ./ at the start.

By default, find uses emacs style regex, which have different escaping rules than the usual egrep regex. Weirdly, on Mac I could not get the + operator (match one or more of the proceeding item) to work. I had to add -E (the -E tells find to use extended regex):

$ find . -regex '\./[0-9]+\.jpg' -E

Finding Directories

You can restrict find to searching just for directories by providing the -type d argument:

$ find . -type d -name "my_dir_name"

Combining With sed

find, a program which finds files, lends itself to working well in conjunction with sed, a program for modifying the contents of a file.



Related Content:


comments powered by Disqus