Different ways to search in Linux/Debian/Ubuntu/Kali Linux/CentOS/RHEL etc.

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locate – Locate files

It can find files quickly but it depends on updatedb to update the index, updatedb runs once everyday but we can run it manually.

# Update the index manually if necessary
sudo updatedb
# Find/Search for "myfile"
locate myfile

whereis, which – Locate command/executable files

whereis ProgramName
which ProgramName

whereis: Will search for executable, source code and documents from default installation folder (Usually, it’s the default folder when installing with root)

Default folders are:


which: Will show results from environment variables, it’s very useful for finding where the actual program/executable located

e.g. Copy source code to current directory without typing complete path

cp 'which myScript.sh'

If which ProgramName returns /usr/bin/which: no ProgramName in (/home/usr/bin:/bin), it means the ProgramName is not located in environment variables, it can’t be executed directly by it’s name

find – Find files with multiple conditions

Search by folder

# Find files with name "myFile" under root directory
find / -name myFile

If executing the above command with non-root user, it will return many errors (Permission denied), we can use following command to ignore all errors but keep normal output

find / -name 2>/dev/null

What is 2>/dev/null ?: Refer to “I/O redirection in Linux” section in Linux – Basics, Useful Terminal commands and Basic File manipulation, (QuickStart)

Search by time

Show log files which were modified within 5 minutes in current working directory

find . -name '*.log' -mmin -5

(To show log files which were modified within 1 day in current working directory)

find . -name '*.log' -mtime -1

Search by Size

e.g. Search all jpg and bmp files

find . \( -name "*.jpg" -o -name "*.bmp" ) | less
find . -regex ".*\(\.jpg\|\.bmp\)$"
# Find files over 10G
find . -type f -size +100G

Limit search folder depth

Search for any .txt files within maximum 3 folder depth

find . -maxdepth 3 -name *.txt

Search for files which are not…

Search for files which are not .txt files

find . -not -name *.txt

find, grep Search for file contents

To list name of all .txt files with Mytext in the content

find . -name *.txt -exec grep -l 'Mytext' {} \;
find . -name *.txt | xargs grep -l 'Mytext'
grep -rl 'Mytext'

To view matched previous 2 lines and next 3 lines

grep -A 3 -B 2 'Mytext' a.txt

To view match counts

# Exact match
grep -c 'Mytext' a.txt
# Ignore case
grcp -ci 'Mytext' a.txt

Count number of series in FASTA and FASTQ

grep '^>' test.fa
grep '^+$' test.fq

^: Start with …

$: End with …

Match/Show unmatched lines

grep -v 'Mytext' a.txt

Regular Expression

By default, grep uses basic regular expression, add -E switch to use extended regular expression, add -P switch to use perl format regular expression

e.g. Remove all blank lines from text file

grep -v '^$' a.txt >a-without-blank-lines.txt

Extended reading

More about “find” command can be found here: How to: Use “find” command in Linux (Debian, Ubuntu, Kali Linux, CentOS, RHEL/RedHat etc.)

Other techniques related to grep can be found here: How to: Search in Linux, How to: Use grep command, How to: Use grep to search

More on whereis, which commands: Linux, Ubuntu etc. How to find where the program is installed

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