Grep Include Only *.txt File Pattern When Running Recursive Mode

by on October 25, 2012 · 8 comments· LAST UPDATED October 25, 2012

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I'm using Debian Linux as my development workstation. I would like to search a directory called ~/projects/ recursively for "foo" word only for *.txt files. How do I search all text files in ~/projects/ for "foo" word using grep command?

The grep command supports recursive file pattern

Tutorial details
DifficultyEasy (rss)
Root privilegesNo
Estimated completion timeN/A
option as follows:

grep -R "pattern" /path/to/dir/

To limit your search for *.txt, try passing the --include option to grep command

Syntax and examples for --include option

The syntax is:

grep -R --include=GLOB "pattern" /path/to/dir
grep -R --include="*.txt" "pattern" /path/to/dir
grep -R --include="*.txt" "foo" ~/projects/

You can include files whose base name matches GLOB using wildcard matching. A file-name glob can use *, ?, and [...] as wildcards, and \ to quote a wildcard or backslash character literally. You can ignore case distinctions in both the PATTERN and the input files with -i optoon i.e. case-insensitive search. In this following example, search for all *.py, *.pl, and *.sh files for "main" word in my /raid6/projects/sysmanagement/ directory:

grep --color -Ri --include="*.py" --include="*.sh" --include="*.pl" "main" /raid6/projects/sysmanagement/


grep --color -Ri  --include=*.{py,pl,sh} "main" /raid6/projects/sysmanagement/

OR a safer option would be (note --color removed and * replaced with \*):

grep -Ri  --include=\*.{py,pl,sh} "main" /raid6/projects/sysmanagement/

The --include option provides you the following advantages:

  1. Speed up the search.
  2. Only match given file pattern.
  3. Do not search for binary files such as compiled files or image files. In other words only look for *.txt or *.py file patterns and so on.
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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

1 better October 25, 2012 at 7:32 pm

this isn’t portable and includes lots of annoying GNUisms.

It is better to use find . -name \*.txt | xargs grep


2 Ryan October 26, 2012 at 1:08 am

It’s really a awful way to use grep that I havn’t seen. I also use find . -name \*.txt | xargs grep before.


3 Chris F.A. Johnson October 26, 2012 at 2:39 am

This matches file names; it doesn’t use globbing:

grep -R –include=GLOB “pattern” /path/to/dir

In other words, it will include dot files, which globbing does not.


4 Maik K October 26, 2012 at 10:56 am

How about enabled globstar(which most ppl I know have anyway) and then grep “foo” /path/**.txt ? Works at least in the richer shells like bash or zsh.


5 Pepe October 26, 2012 at 3:29 pm

xargs? ewwwwggg. What real men do is:

find /some/path -type f -name *.txt -exec grep “pattern” {} +


6 Balakrishnan B October 26, 2012 at 4:15 pm

Zsh Only
grep “pattern” **/*.txt

May not work if the number of matching files are too many.


7 Chris F.A. Johnson October 26, 2012 at 9:14 pm

Balakrishnan, ** also works in bash (version 4) with the globstar option.


8 Sid Burn November 16, 2012 at 10:40 am

Real man just use:

ack –text “pattern”


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