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Searching for files and directories

From: Unix for Mac OS X Users

Video: Searching for files and directories

Now we've covered most of the fundamentals of working with files and directories, we want us to see how we can go about searching files and directories to find certain files. The Finder offers a really powerful search tool already. It's called Spotlight. You can access it from the upper right-hand corner of the Finder or most Finder windows also have a field that where you can type in what you are looking for and it will help you find all the files that match that criteria and it's very powerful and it's pretty fast. However, we also need to learn to do it the Unix way. First of all, you may be on another Unix system at some point. Maybe you're even logged in remotely to a Unix web server and want to search for things there.

Searching for files and directories

Now we've covered most of the fundamentals of working with files and directories, we want us to see how we can go about searching files and directories to find certain files. The Finder offers a really powerful search tool already. It's called Spotlight. You can access it from the upper right-hand corner of the Finder or most Finder windows also have a field that where you can type in what you are looking for and it will help you find all the files that match that criteria and it's very powerful and it's pretty fast. However, we also need to learn to do it the Unix way. First of all, you may be on another Unix system at some point. Maybe you're even logged in remotely to a Unix web server and want to search for things there.

Well, Spotlight won't do you any good on that remote server and also sometimes it will be useful to be able to just do it from Unix without switching out and in some cases, it will actually be faster. You will be able to find exactly the results you want by doing it this way. So the way we'll execute a Unix search is using the Find command. Find, space, and the first argument is the path that we want to search in so we can limit the search results to certain folders, and then the expression and the expression could be a lot of different things, a lot of complexity can go there, but that's going to tell it what it should try and find.

So to just give you a very simple example, we could have find inside the user Documents folder anything that had name "someimage.jpg". Those quotes are optional. You don't have to have them there. Notice that name, even though it has the dash in front of it, is not an option in the typical sense of being a command option. It is part of the expression. name and someimage are the expression that we are using here. That's why the option comes after the first argument, not in the traditional place where options come between the command and the arguments.

It is an argument itself. It is not an option to find. Find can have some options to it. You can use the man pages to look those up. Now that will return anything that's in Documents that has exactly the name someimage.jpg. Well, that's great if we know exactly the name of the file we are looking for, but most times we don't. Most times we are looking for something that's a little fuzzier than that. Maybe we are looking for everything that has the word image in it or everything that ends in .jpg. When we were to execute those kinds of finds, we need to employ wildcard characters. So we'll use wildcard characters to hold the place of where we want to say well, anything could potentially go here.

So if we use an asterisk that means that zero or more characters can be represented by that. It's often called the glob. If we use the question mark, it represents any one character. It can hold that place and with square brackets any of the characters in the brackets could have that position. If we try these out, I think you'll get the hang of the wildcards pretty quick. For this movie, I am actually not inside my Unix files. I am just inside the root of my User folder so you can use cd ~ to get in the same place. So from here, most of you should have a Sites folder and inside there should be something called index.html. ls ~/Sites/.

You can see I have something called index.html. That's a default web page that Apple gives you on your Mac. If you don't have it, then you can pick any other file. I just wanted to pick something that I thought everyone would probably have. So if we find inside our Sites folder something with the name index.html, it comes back and it says "Ah, here is what I found for you." If we pick something else, let's say, index2 .html, it says "Nope, didn't find anything." Okay, so you see the difference in behavior whether it finds something or not. It lists everything that it finds. For the wildcards, what we do is we would just say all right, you know what, I am looking for not just anything that is index, but anything that has index dot and four characters after it.

I don't care what four they are, has to be four, but those four can be anything. That's what I mean by a wildcard. It's sort of like a joker being wild in the card game. So it still returns the same result. Let's take away one of those. You'll see that comes back and it says no. If we don't know how many characters, you might have two, might have three, might have four, well then we would use the glob, that asterisk, and that says yeah, I recognize that. So let's say for example we wanted everything in that folder that ends in .html. You might have a circumstance where you have several index files.

We might have index and we might have index1, index2, index3 and we want to get all of them, well, then we would say index(123) and now it would return anything to us that had index 1, 2 or 3. Now obviously we don't have those files, so it didn't return anything but I wanted to show you how those square brackets work. It basically says this character position can contain any of the things that's inside the set, 1, 2, or 3. So that's how the wildcards work. Let's try a couple more examples. Let's do find anything inside our user directory. I'll just clear the screen so you can see this little better. And where the name ends in .plist.

That's the file extension that Apple gives to a lot of its preferences. So that will be anything in my User preferences folder that is an application preference or something like that and a whole lot of these scroll bar and now you see I have got some for Safari, I have got some for QuickTime, and so on. So that's sort of a classic use case for how you would do this. Now so far, examples have just included showing name, but you can also read the man pages and see that you can put in path, the last modified time, the size of the file, things that match certain regular expressions.

You can do all of that and you can read the man pages to find out exactly how to do what you are looking for. Find can be pretty complex. Let me show you one other thing though that I think is pretty cool, which is that we can also provide some modifier options to the expression. So for example, I had find everything that was a plist, but let's say I don't want to have the ones that were QuickTime. There were whole lot of those that were QuickTime. Find everything and not path and then with quotes or without we can do QuickTime. Notice I have the asterisk at the beginning and at the end.

There may be stuff before it, there maybe stuff after it. I don't care. I am looking for anything whose path contains this string, QuickTime. I don't want to see those. So you see how you use and, not, and then path. Path is the same as name, but the operators and, not, and or are all things that you could use. So let's try that. Now you'll see I get another list slightly different. Now we can say okay, but what about everything that's not in our Preferences file? Let's say -and -not -path * Preferences. I get a narrower list, dropped everything up that had preferences.

So you can see how it starts to become very powerful. You can start to hone in on exactly what you're looking for. As I said, find is a really powerful tool. It goes much deeper than this. I just want to make sure that I gave you a good introduction to it so that it at least gets you started with the basics.

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This video is part of

Image for Unix for Mac OS X Users
Unix for Mac OS X Users

82 video lessons · 25428 viewers

Kevin Skoglund
Author

 
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  1. 3m 57s
    1. Introduction
      1m 14s
    2. Using the exercise files
      2m 43s
  2. 32m 2s
    1. What is Unix?
      7m 27s
    2. The terminal application
      4m 23s
    3. Logging in and using the command prompt
      5m 19s
    4. Command structure
      5m 22s
    5. Kernel and shells
      5m 25s
    6. Unix manual pages
      4m 6s
  3. 15m 58s
    1. The working directory
      2m 49s
    2. Listing files and directories
      3m 59s
    3. Moving around the filesystem
      4m 58s
    4. Filesystem organization
      4m 12s
  4. 1h 4m
    1. Naming files
      5m 41s
    2. Creating files
      2m 19s
    3. Unix text editors
      6m 39s
    4. Reading files
      5m 35s
    5. Reading portions of files
      3m 27s
    6. Creating directories
      2m 40s
    7. Moving and renaming files and directories
      8m 32s
    8. Copying files and directories
      3m 7s
    9. Deleting files and directories
      3m 38s
    10. Finder aliases in Unix
      4m 10s
    11. Hard links
      5m 30s
    12. Symbolic links
      6m 36s
    13. Searching for files and directories
      6m 32s
  5. 34m 58s
    1. Who am I?
      4m 3s
    2. Unix groups
      1m 52s
    3. File and directory ownership
      6m 41s
    4. File and directory permissions
      4m 27s
    5. Setting permissions using alpha notation
      6m 49s
    6. Setting permissions using octal notation
      3m 49s
    7. The root user
      1m 57s
    8. sudo and sudoers
      5m 20s
  6. 52m 34s
    1. Command basics
      4m 4s
    2. The PATH variable
      4m 13s
    3. System information commands
      3m 40s
    4. Disk information commands
      6m 8s
    5. Viewing processes
      5m 0s
    6. Monitoring processes
      3m 36s
    7. Stopping processes
      3m 19s
    8. Text file helpers
      6m 50s
    9. Utility programs
      7m 28s
    10. Using the command history
      8m 16s
  7. 20m 39s
    1. Standard input and standard output
      1m 24s
    2. Directing output to a file
      4m 13s
    3. Appending to a file
      2m 44s
    4. Directing input from a file
      5m 28s
    5. Piping output to input
      4m 40s
    6. Suppressing output
      2m 10s
  8. 41m 28s
    1. Profile, login, and resource files
      9m 11s
    2. Setting command aliases
      6m 59s
    3. Setting and exporting environment variables
      4m 54s
    4. Setting the PATH variable
      6m 10s
    5. Configuring history with variables
      6m 17s
    6. Customizing the command prompt
      6m 5s
    7. Logout file
      1m 52s
  9. 1h 25m
    1. grep: Searching for matching expressions
      5m 21s
    2. grep: Multiple files, other input
      4m 28s
    3. grep: Coloring matched text
      2m 57s
    4. Introduction to regular expressions
      3m 22s
    5. Regular expressions: Basic syntax
      3m 19s
    6. Using regular expressions with grep
      5m 20s
    7. tr: Translating characters
      8m 17s
    8. tr: Deleting and squeezing characters
      5m 30s
    9. sed: Stream editor
      7m 45s
    10. sed: Regular expressions and back-references
      7m 8s
    11. cut: Cutting select text portions
      7m 42s
    12. diff: Comparing files
      4m 35s
    13. diff: Alternative formats
      4m 30s
    14. xargs: Passing argument lists to commands
      7m 25s
    15. xargs: Usage examples
      7m 59s
  10. 42m 25s
    1. Finder integration
      4m 45s
    2. Clipboard integration
      5m 5s
    3. Screen capture
      3m 42s
    4. Shut down, reboot, and sleep
      3m 34s
    5. Text to speech
      2m 36s
    6. Spotlight integration: Searching metadata
      3m 41s
    7. Spotlight integration: Metadata attributes
      4m 24s
    8. Using AppleScript
      5m 23s
    9. System configurations: Viewing and setting
      5m 51s
    10. System configurations: Examples
      3m 24s
  11. 1m 26s
    1. Conclusion
      1m 26s

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