The grep command is used to search text file for patterns. A pattern can be a word, text, numbers and more. It is one of the most useful commands on Debian/Ubuntu/ Linux and Unix like operating systems.
grep command syntax on Ubuntu/Debian
The basic syntax is:
grep 'word-to-search' file
grep 'word-to-search' file1 file2
grep 'word-to-search' *.c
grep 'pattern' file
grep 'pattern' file1 file2
grep [options] 'pattern' file1 file2
Open the Terminal and then type the following commands.
grep command examples on Ubuntu/Debian Linux
Search for user named ‘root’ in a text file called /etc/passwd:
grep 'nixcraft' /etc/passwd
To search the four files foo, bar, demo, and test for line that contains the string ‘Mangalyaan’, enter:
grep 'Mangalyaan' foo bar demo test
You can search for the phrase ‘Mars orbiter mission’ using the following syntax:
grep 'Mars orbiter mission' isro.txt nasa.txt
To search all text files in the current directory for the phrase ‘Mars orbiter mission’, enter:
grep 'Mars orbiter mission' *
Pass the -r option to the grep command to search recursively through an entire directory tree. In this example, search all files in the current directory and in all of its sub-directories for the phrase ‘Mars orbiter mission’:
grep -r 'Mars orbiter mission' *
grep -R 'Mars orbiter mission' *
You can instructs grep to ignore case i.e. perform a case-insensitive search using the -i option:
grep -i 'nixcraft' *
The above example will search for nixCraft, nixcraft, NIXCRAFT and other patterns:
grep -ir 'nixcraft' *
How do I use grep with other commands?
The syntax is:
command | grep 'search-pattern'
command1 | command2 | grep 'search-pattern'
In this example, run ls command and search for the string/pattern called resume.pdf:
ls | grep resume.pdf ls -l | grep resumd.pdf ls -l *.mov | grep 'birthday' ls -l *.mov | grep -i 'birthday'
You can search Ubuntu / Debian server log file for errors or the particular string as follows:
grep 'error' /var/log/messages grep -i 'error' /var/log/messages
To search for the contents of the system message, enter:
dmesg | grep -i 'hd' dmesg | grep -i 'sd'
The following command will list all hard disk sizes and names on Ubuntu/Debian Linux based system:
fdisk -l | grep 'Disk /dev'
Disk /dev/sda: 500.1 GB, 500107862016 bytes
grep tip: Color me beautiful
You can force grep to display output in colors, enter:
grep --color vivek /etc/passwd
- For further information and examples see “Linux / UNIX grep Command Tutorial series” or read grep(1).