Searching for files – beagle, Google Desktop, find / | grep

Posted by on Apr 1, 2008 in Ubuntu2 comments

Google DesktopLike most users, I like to be able to locate files as quickly as possible, without having to plough through dozens of directories trying to remember where I placed that elusive Tibetan Flag image. There are several tools available to aid users searching their computers – the default install of Ubuntu has a built in search, the Tracker Search Tool.

Over a stretch of time, I’ve installed and used several such tools – Beagle, Google Desktop, and others. Both Beagle and Google Desktop offer a simple to use GUI, and are easy to install and set up. Beagle is available via the Ubuntu Repositories:

sudo apt-get install beagle

while Google Desktop is available to download from their website. Once the Google Desktop has downloaded, it can either be installed form the command line, or simply by double-clicking on the package.

Beagle SearchBoth packages will periodically scan your system, and index all of the files it finds (by default, the home directory, and additionally any others you add) which provides faster searching capabilities. They do use a small amount of system resources during this process, and they each use a fair amount of disk space to store the indexes (Google Desktop is currently using 500+Mb on my system, which in total has 9Gb of files and applications – much of that may actually be to do with Google having indexed my gmail inbox too!).

Find | grepThey’re great applications if you like visual feedback, and an interactive GUI, but even though I currently have Google Desktop installed (I’ve since removed beagle, to salvage some space, and will most likely remove Google Desktop eventually too), I rarely use it. The colourful icon sits next to my clock, waiting to be clicked, and the search box even pops up when I mistakenly double tap my CTRL key, but it’s rarely put to work. Invariably, I’ll use the combination of commands that has never failed in finding what I want – find, and grep. I can pass a directory to the find command, and pipe the results through grep to find any file I want, anywhere on my system:

~/$ sudo find / | grep TibetFlag.png

Well, there you go – it was on my Desktop all along…

Tibetan Flag

I usually use sudo, because I want the find command to be able to access all directories (I don’t need to use sudo if I’m just searching my home directory). I’m telling find to start the search in the root / directory – although this could be any directory: /home, /usr, /usr/share etc. then I’m piping | the results through to grep to match the actual (or partial) name of the file – I could have just passed “Tibet” as a parameter to grep, if I couldn’t remember the full filename.

Most of the time, this combination of commands will return many more results – in which case, it can be piped once again through more, which will return single pages of results that can be scrolled using the space bar, Page Down, or down keys:

sudo find / | grep Tibet | more

Alternatively, I could have just created a file to dump the results into, and peruse that file later with a text editor:

sudo find / | grep Tibet > tibetFlagSearch.txt

You can of course, also just use the find command, with the -name option:

sudo find / -name 'TibetFlag.png'
sudo find / -name 'TibetFlag.*'
sudo find / -name '*.png'


What can I say – I’m an old skool Command Linerererer…

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