Grep tricks

2 minutes to read

After some surprise from some folks in the office about my previous blog post, I decided to make another post around grep only.

Search for the given string in a given file or list of files or files that match a certain pattern:

grep "string to search for" file1
grep "string to search for" file1 file2
grep "string to search for" file*pattern

You can apply the same commands above while doing case insensitive search using -i, like:

grep -i "case insensitive string to search for" file1
grep -i "case insensitive string to search for" file1 file2
grep -i "case insensitive string to search for" file*pattern

Another useful flag to pass is the full word matching -w:

grep -w "is" file1

This won't match things like this in the file. Instead if will match only the is word, like spaces around it, commas and other punctuation like is, or is. or even 'is'.

You can also use regular expressions:

grep <regex> file1

Displaying lines before (-B) or after (-A) or around (-C) the match:

grep -A 5 "string" file1 # 5 lines before
grep -B 3 "string" file1 # 3 lines after
grep -C 2 "string" file1 # 2 lines before and after (total 5 lines)

I would also suggest to set GREP_OPTIONS in your bash settings to highlight the matches by default, like I do in my dotfiles. It makes it a lot easier to scan through the results. You can also customize the colors to your liking using the GREP_COLORS environment variable.

I might do another post about find command if there are requests for it.