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[Linux] Find filenames list by content search and file format

Generally computer users can memorize the locations of different files that they read or store. As the number of files increases, they can use descriptive filenames making it easy to guess the content by looking at the file name. However when the number of files grows higher & higher in number, it becomes a pain to remember locations or filenames. Also when a computer is used by some other person than the owner, it becomes even harder to locate some files.

Search by partial name

find -name "<filename pattern>"

Above command is useful only if you can remember the filenames at least some parts of the file name. If you are a software developer, you know how many times you would want to search files based on the content.

Search by content

find <path> -name "<file name pattern>" -exec grep -l "<text to search>" {} \;

Above command can be used to find the files based on content search. For example to find a file with a value say "db.user" in a properties file inside "/opt/work/project" folder (including sub folders) following command can be used.

find /opt/work/project -name "*.properties" -exec grep -l "db.user" {} \;

IgnoreCase search can be done by adding "-i" attribute to grep command; check following command.

find /opt/work/project -name "*.properties" -exec grep -il "db.user" {} \;

When would content search be used?

  • You remember some parts of the content but not the file name
  • Find which property file contains an specific property used in your program
  • Locate the Style sheet (css file) containing a specific style class or property
  • Find Java class files that references some methods like "indexOf"
  • and so on...


  1. Thanks. this content based search really helpful.

  2. These features are very helpful when your are in hurry to find something urgently.

    - Tanya
    Web Design Firm

  3. It really ease your life, only few time it is required in years but when you do it is very important fearture.
    - John Devis
    Magento Themes

  4. A great post for sure as to how one should go about and changing filename using the operating suystem of Linux....

    Well done keep posting stuff like this.....


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