Find Options

Among the core-utils, find is one of the most useful commands. Though I use the basic functions most of the time, find has a wide range of parameters, and it comes in handy not only for finding files, but also for operating a bunch of them at once. Here is a very simple example.

Imagine you have to move many files to a directory, but they all call different so a glob is no use, and manually moving all of them is not an option. A possible approach would be to locate the first of the batch (for example by running ls -l­rth). Suppose the first one of the batch is called /tmp/checkpoint (for this example let’s assume the files reside at /tmp).

The com­mand would be:

find /tmp -type f -anewer /tmp/checkpoint -exec mv '{}' <target_directory> \;

The -type f part is important in order not to move the entire directory (find only the files). Then we have the -anew­er that receives a file as a parameter, and it will filter for those files whose modification date is greater than the file used as an example (hence, this must be the start of the batch), and finally the -ex­ec part is interesting because as mentioned at the beginning, it allows to perform arbitrary operations on the group of files (in this case to move them to another location, but other actions such as modifications, sed, etc. are also possible).

Another trait I like about find is that presents a secure and well-defined interface, meaning that in some cases I can first check the results prior to execute an action. For example, if we would like to check for deleting some unnecessary files:

find . -name "*.pyc"

By issuing this command we list some files to erase. And then we can simply do that by appending -delete to the very same command.

This is just the tip of the iceberg of the things that are possible by means of the find command and its various options.