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

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 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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{ 9 comments… add one }
  • better October 25, 2012, 7:32 pm

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

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

  • Ryan October 26, 2012, 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.

  • Chris F.A. Johnson October 26, 2012, 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.

  • Maik K October 26, 2012, 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.

  • Pepe October 26, 2012, 3:29 pm

    xargs? ewwwwggg. What real men do is:

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

  • Balakrishnan B October 26, 2012, 4:15 pm

    Zsh Only
    grep “pattern” **/*.txt

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

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

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

  • Sid Burn November 16, 2012, 10:40 am

    Real man just use:

    ack –text “pattern”

  • Konrad December 28, 2016, 11:40 am

    +1 to find | xargs grep something

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