How do I find all files containing specific text on Linux?

Nathan Source

I'm trying to find a way to scan my entire Linux system for all files containing a specific string of text. Just to clarify, I'm looking for text within the file, not in the file name.

When I was looking up how to do this, I came across this solution twice:

find / -type f -exec grep -H 'text-to-find-here' {} \;

However, it doesn't work. It seems to display every single file in the system.

Is this close to the proper way to do it? If not, how should I? This ability to find text strings in files would be extraordinarily useful for some programming projects I'm doing.



answered 5 years ago fedorqui #1

You can use grep -ilR:

grep -Ril "text-to-find-here" /
  • i stands for ignore case (optional in your case).
  • R stands for recursive.
  • l stands for "show the file name, not the result itself".
  • / stands for starting at the root of your machine.

answered 5 years ago rakib_ #2

Do the following:

grep -rnw '/path/to/somewhere/' -e 'pattern'
  • -r or -R is recursive,
  • -n is line number, and
  • -w stands for match the whole word.
  • -l (lower-case L) can be added to just give the file name of matching files.

Along with these, --exclude, --include, --exclude-dir flags could be used for efficient searching:

  • This will only search through those files which have .c or .h extensions:

    grep --include=\*.{c,h} -rnw '/path/to/somewhere/' -e "pattern"
  • This will exclude searching all the files ending with .o extension:

    grep --exclude=*.o -rnw '/path/to/somewhere/' -e "pattern"
  • For directories it's possible to exclude a particular directory(ies) through --exclude-dir parameter. For example, this will exclude the dirs dir1/, dir2/ and all of them matching *.dst/:

    grep --exclude-dir={dir1,dir2,*.dst} -rnw '/path/to/somewhere/' -e "pattern"

This works very well for me, to achieve almost the same purpose like yours.

For more options check man grep.

answered 5 years ago EarlOfEgo #3

You can use ack. It is like grep for source code. You can scan your entire file system with it.

Just do:

ack 'text-to-find-here'

In your root directory.

You can also use regular expressions, specify the filetype, etc.


I just discovered The Silver Searcher, which is like ack but 3-5x faster than it and even ignores patterns from a .gitignore file.

answered 5 years ago A R #4

You can use this:

grep -inr "Text" folder/to/be/searched/

answered 4 years ago lkamal #5

List of file names containing a given text

First of all, I believe you have used -H instead of -l. Also you can try adding the text inside quotes followed by {} \.

find / -type f -exec grep -l "text-to-find-here" {} \; 


Let's say you are searching for files containing specific text "Apache License" inside your directory. It will display results somewhat similar to below (output will be different based on your directory content).

bash-4.1$ find . -type f -exec grep -l "Apache License" {} \; 

Remove case sensitiveness

Even if you are not use about the case like "text" vs "TEXT", you can use the -i switch to ignore case. You can read further details here.

Hope this helps you.

answered 4 years ago Dilawar #6

I wrote a Python script which does something similar. This is how one should use this script.

./ path pattern_to_search [file_pattern]

The first argument, path, is the directory in which we will search recursively. The second argument, pattern_to_search, is a regular expression which we want to search in a file. We use the regular expression format defined in the Python re library. In this script, the . also matches newline.

The third argument, file_pattern, is optional. This is another regular expression which works on a filename. Only those files which matches this regular expression will be considered.

For example, if I want to search Python files with the extension py containing Pool( followed by word Adaptor, I do the following,

./ . "Pool(.*?Adaptor"  .*py

And voila, it generates the path of matched files and line number at which the match was found. If more than one match was found, then each line number will be appended to the filename.

answered 4 years ago user3124504 #7

To search for the string and output just that line with the search string:

for i in $(find /path/of/target/directory -type f); do grep -i "the string to look for" "$i"; done


for i in $(find /usr/share/applications -type f); \
do grep -i "web browser" "$i"; done

To display filename containing the search string:

for i in $(find /path/of/target/directory -type f); do if grep -i "the string to look for" "$i" > /dev/null; then echo "$i"; fi; done;


for i in $(find /usr/share/applications -type f); \
do if grep -i "web browser" "$i" > /dev/null; then echo "$i"; \
fi; done;

answered 4 years ago Atul Arvind #8

Here are the several list of commands that can be used to search file.

grep "text string to search” directory-path

grep [option] "text string to search” directory-path

grep -r "text string to search” directory-path

grep -r -H "text string to search” directory-path

egrep -R "word-1|word-2” directory-path

egrep -w -R "word-1|word-2” directory-path

answered 4 years ago learner_19 #9

You can use:

grep -r "string to be searched"  /path/to/dir

The r stands for recursive and so will search in the path specified and also its sub-directories. This will tell you the file name as well as print out the line in the file where the string appears.

Or a command similar to the one you are trying (example: ) for searching in all javascript files (*.js):

find . -name '*.js' -exec grep -i 'string to search for' {} \; -print

This will print the lines in the files where the text appears, but it does not print the file name.

In addition to this command, we can write this too: grep -rn "String to search" /path/to/directory/or/file -r: recursive search n: line number will be shown for matches

answered 4 years ago Alexandre Jasmin #10

grep can be used even if we're not looking for a string.

Simply running,

grep -RIl "" .

will print out the path to all text files, i.e. those containing only printable characters.

answered 4 years ago RobEarl #11

If your grep doesn't support recursive search, you can combine find with xargs:

find / -type f | xargs grep 'text-to-find-here'

I find this easier to remember than the format for find -exec.

This will output the filename and the content of the matched line, e.g.


Optional flags you may want to add to grep:

  • -i - case insensitive search
  • -l - only output the filename where the match was found
  • -h - only output the line which matched (not the filename)

answered 4 years ago Vinod Joshi #12

find /path -type f -exec grep -l "string" {} \;

Explanation from comments

find is a command that lets you find files and other objects like directories and links in subdirectories of a given path. If you don't specify a mask that filesnames should meet, it enumerates all directory objects.

-type f specifies that it should proceed only files, not directories etc.
-exec grep specifies that for every found file, it should run grep command, passing its filename as an argument to it, by replacing {} with the filename

answered 3 years ago venkat #13


find . -name "*.txt" | xargs grep -i "text_pattern"

answered 3 years ago Tayab Hussain #14

Try this:

find . | xargs grep 'word' -sl

answered 3 years ago dkinzer #15

If you have a set of files that you will always be checking you can alias their paths, for example:

alias fd='find . -type f -regex ".*\.\(inc\|info\|module\|php\|test\|install\|uninstall\)"'

Then you can simply filter the list like this:

grep -U -l $'\015' $(fd)

Which filters out the list fd to files that contain the CR pattern.

I find that aliasing the files that I am interested in helps me create easier scripts then always trying to remember how to get all those files. The recursive stuff works as well but sooner or later you are going to have to contend with weeding out specific file types. Which is is why I just find all the file types I'm interested in to begin with.

answered 3 years ago Gert van Biljon #16

Hope this is of assistance...

Expanding the grep a bit to give more information in the output, for example, to get the line number in the file where the text is can be done as follows:

find . -type f -name "*.*" -print0 | xargs --null grep --with-filename --line-number --no-messages --color --ignore-case "searthtext"

And if you have an idea what the file type is you can narrow your search down by specifying file type extensions to search for, in this case .pas OR .dfm files:

find . -type f \( -name "*.pas" -o -name "*.dfm" \) -print0 | xargs --null grep --with-filename --line-number --no-messages --color --ignore-case "searchtext"

Short explanation of the options:

  1. . in the find specifies from the current directory.
  2. -name "*.*" : for all files ( -name "*.pas" -o -name "*.dfm" ) : Only the *.pas OR *.dfm files, OR specified with -o
  3. -type f specifies that you are looking for files
  4. -print0 and --null on the other side of the | (pipe) are the crucial ones, passing the filename from the find to the grep embedded in the xargs, allowing for the passing of filenames WITH spaces in the filenames, allowing grep to treat the path and filename as one string, and not break it up on each space.

answered 3 years ago user4863663 #17


find / -type f -exec grep -H 'text-to-find-here' {} \;

which will search all file systems, because / is the root folder.

For home folder use:

find ~/ -type f -exec grep -H 'text-to-find-here' {} \;

For current folder use:

find ./ -type f -exec grep -H 'text-to-find-here' {} \;

answered 3 years ago kenorb #18

grep (GNU or BSD)

You can use grep tool to search recursively the current folder, like:

grep -r "class foo" .

Note: -r - Recursively search subdirectories.

You can also use globbing syntax to search within specific files such as:

grep "class foo" **/*.c

Note: By using globbing option (**), it scans all the files recursively with specific extension or pattern. To enable this syntax, run: shopt -s globstar. You may also use **/*.* for all files (excluding hidden and without extension) or any other pattern.

If you've the error that your argument is too long, consider narrowing down your search, or use find syntax instead such as:

find . -name "*.php" -execdir grep -nH --color=auto foo {} ';'

Alternatively use ripgrep.


If you're working on larger projects or big files, you should use ripgrep instead, like:

rg "class foo" .

Checkout the docs, installation steps or source code on the GitHub project page.

It's much quicker than any other tool like GNU/BSD grep, ucg, ag, sift, ack, pt or similar, since it is built on top of Rust's regex engine which uses finite automata, SIMD and aggressive literal optimizations to make searching very fast.

It supports ignore patterns specified in .gitignore files, so a single file path can be matched against multiple glob patterns simultaneously.

You can use the common parameters such as:

  • -i - Insensitive searching.
  • -I - Ignore the binary files.
  • -w - Search for the whole words (in opposite of partial word matching).
  • -n - Show the line of your match.
  • -C/--context (e.g. -C5) - Increases context, so you see the surrounding code .
  • --color=auto - Mark up the matching text.
  • -H - Displays filename where the text is found.
  • -c - Displays count of matching lines. Can be combined with -H.

answered 3 years ago Mitul Patel #19

You can use the below command as you don't want a file name, but you want to search from all the files. Here are I am capturing "TEXT" from all the log files, making sure that the file name is not printed:

# grep -e TEXT *.log | cut -d' ' --complement -s -f1

Using grep with the -e option is quite quick compared to other options as it is for a PATTERN match.

answered 2 years ago Sireesh Yarlagadda #20

Try this

find . -type f -name some_file_name.xml -exec grep -H PUT_YOUR_STRING_HERE {} \;

answered 2 years ago Bludzee #21

How do I find all files containing specific text on Linux? (...)

I came across this solution twice:

find / -type f -exec grep -H 'text-to-find-here' {} \;

If using find like in your example, better add -s (--no-messages) to grep, and 2>/dev/null at the end of the command to avoid lots of Permission denied messages issued by grep and find:

find / -type f -exec grep -sH 'text-to-find-here' {} \; 2>/dev/null

find is the standard tool for searching files containing specific text on Unix-like platforms; it is often combined with xargs by the way.

Faster and easier tools exist for the same purpose - see below. Better try them, provided they're available on your platform, of course.

Faster and easier alternatives

RipGrep - fastest search tool around:

rg 'text-to-find-here' / -l

The Silver Searcher:

ag 'text-to-find-here' / -l


ack 'text-to-find-here' / -l

Note: You can add 2>/dev/null to these commands as well, to hide many error messages.

answered 2 years ago Pradeep Goswami #22

The below command will work fine for this approach:

find ./ -name "file_pattern_name"  -exec grep -r "pattern" {} \;

answered 2 years ago enfinet #23

grep -insr "pattern" *
  • i: Ignore case distinctions in both the PATTERN and the input files.
  • n: Prefix each line of output with the 1-based line number within its input file.
  • s: Suppress error messages about nonexistent or unreadable files.
  • r: Read all files under each directory, recursively.

answered 2 years ago Kareem #24

Avoid the hassle and install ack-grep. It eliminates a lot of permission and quotation issues.

apt-get install ack-grep

Then go to the directory you want to search and run the command below

cd /
ack-grep "find my keyword"

answered 2 years ago mahatmanich #25

Use pwd to search from any directory you are in, recursing downward

grep -rnw `pwd` -e "pattern"

Update Depending on the version of grep you are using, you can omit pwd. On newer versions . seems to be the default case for grep if no directory is given thus:

grep -rnw -e "pattern"


grep -rnw "pattern"

will do the same thing as above!

answered 2 years ago Pal #26

There is an ack tool that would do exactly what you are looking for.

ack -i search_string folder_path/*

You may ignore -i for case sensitive search

answered 2 years ago baldash #27

grep -Erni + "text you wanna search"

The command will search recursivly in all files and directories of the current directory and print the result.

Note: if your grep output isn't colored, you can change it by using the grep='grep --color=always' alias in your shell src file

answered 2 years ago VIPIN KUMAR #28

Try this:

find / -type f -name "*" -exec grep -il "String_to_search" {} \;


for i in /*;do grep -Ril "String_to_search" $i;done 2> /dev/null

answered 1 year ago Neil Agarwal #29

There's a new utility called The Silversearcher

sudo apt install silversearcher-ag

It works closely with Git and other VCS. So you won't get anything in a .git or another directory.

You can simply use

ag -ia "Search query"

And it will do the task for you!

answered 1 year ago AAAfarmclub #30

Silver Searcher is a terrific tool, but ripgrep may be even better.

It works on Linux, Mac and Windows, and was written up on Hacker News a couple of months ago (this has a link to Andrew Gallant's Blog which has a GitHub link):

Ripgrep – A new command line search tool

answered 1 year ago Dr_Hope #31


grep -c Your_Pattern *

This will report how many copies of your pattern are there in each of the files in the current directory.

answered 1 year ago iamjayp #32

You can use the following commands to find particular text from a file:

cat file | grep 'abc' | cut -d':' -f2

answered 1 year ago LethalProgrammer #33

A Simple find can work handy. alias it in your ~/.bashrc file:

alias ffind find / -type f | xargs grep

Start a new terminal and issue:

ffind 'text-to-find-here'

answered 10 months ago Peter Masiar #34

All previous answers suggest grep and find. But there is another way: Use midnight commander

It is a free utility (30 years old, proven by time) which is visual without being GUI. Has tons of functions, finding files is just one of them.

answered 9 months ago Geeocode #35

As Peter in the previous answer mentioned, all previous answers suggest grep and find.

But there is more sophisticated way using Gnome Commander with perfect GUI and with tons of options since 2001, finding files is just one of them. It is a free utility as well proven by time.

answered 9 months ago nitinr708 #36

I am fascinated by how simple grep makes it with 'rl'

grep -rl 'pattern_to_find' /path/where/to/find

-r to find recursively file / directory inside directories..
-l to list files matching the 'pattern'

Use '-r' without 'l' to see the file names followed by text in which the pattern is found!

grep -r 'pattern_to_find' /path/where/to/find

Works just perfect..

Hope it helps!

answered 6 months ago Prash #37

grep is your good friend to achieve this.

grep -r <text_fo_find> <directory>

if you don't care about the case of the text to find then use

grep -ir <text_to_find> <directory>

answered 4 months ago Mike Slinn #38

find with xargs is preferred when there are many potential matches to sift through. It runs more slowly than other options, but it always works. As some have discovered,xargs does not handle files with embedded spaces by default. You can overcome this by specifying the -d option.

Here is @RobEarl's answer, enhanced so it handles files with spaces:

find / -type f | xargs -d '\n' grep 'text-to-find-here'

Here is @venkat's answer, similarly enhanced:

find . -name "*.txt" | xargs -d '\n' grep -i "text_pattern"

Here is @Gert van Biljon's answer, similarly enhanced:

find . -type f -name "*.*" -print0 | xargs -d '\n' --null grep --with-filename --line-number --no-messages --color --ignore-case "searthtext"

Here is @LetalProgrammer's answer, similarly enhanced:

alias ffind find / -type f | xargs -d '\n' grep

Here is @Tayab Hussain's answer, similarly enhanced:

find . | xargs -d '\n' grep 'word' -sl

answered 1 month ago intika #39

Gui Search Alternative - For Desktop Use :
- As the question is not precisely asking for commands

Searchmonkey : Advanced file search tool without having to index your system using regular expressions. Graphical equivalent to find/grep. Available for Linux (Gnome/KDE/Java) & Win (Java) - Open-Source GPLv3

Features :

  • Advanced Regular Expressions
  • Results shown in-context
  • Search containing text
  • Panel to display line containing text
  • New 2018 updates
  • etc.

Download - Links :


Screen-shot :

enter image description here

answered 1 week ago Gustavo Paulo #40

See also The Platinium Searcher, which is similar to The Silver Searcher and it's written in Go.


pt -e 'text to search'

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