I am looking for a software that will search text in files from a folder similar to XYplorer.

Is there something similar?


10 Answers 10


There is a very nice one that shipped with Ubuntu out of the box until 16.04. For modern releases, read the update below!

  1. Open the Dash (Super key or the Ubuntu button) and begin typing until you find Search for Files

    enter image description here

  2. The above is for Unity, the default Desktop Environment in Ubuntu. In menu-driven environments, go to Applications -> Accessories -> Search for Files

    enter image description here

  3. Expand the Select more options section and enter the text to search for in the Contains the text: input field.

    enter image description here


  • 100% GUI
  • You can search for file names or content
  • It does look in sub-folders.

Given your scenario (no terminal commands, simple to use interface) I think theres no better option.

PS: on the Contains the text: input field the '.' character is a wildcard. To escape it you have to use '[]'. E.g.: type Contains the text: [.]myFunction to search for .myFunction

UPDATE: Gnome Search Tool was unfortunately removed from Ubuntu on early 2018. For Ubuntu 18.04 onwards there's mate-search-tool, from the mate-utils package, that looks and behave exactly like the defunct Gnome tool:

sudo apt install mate-utils

However, its associated .desktop launcher does not show by default in Gnome/Unity menu, but a simple edit can workaround that:

sed '/^OnlyShowIn/s/^/#/' /usr/share/applications/mate-search-tool.desktop \
> "$HOME"/.local/share/applications/mate-search-tool.desktop
  • yup, I didn't see i could add details
    – S L
    Commented Mar 8, 2011 at 13:43
  • 1
    yes, you can... just click on "select more options" and you can have not only "Contains the Text" but also tons of other search options (date, user, file sizer, even regex expressions). I also missed this little beast for a long time... i wish it was integrated into Nautilus (kinda like F3 in Windows Explorer)
    – MestreLion
    Commented Mar 8, 2011 at 13:53
  • this is the same as i advised earlier gnome-search-tool
    – Mikl
    Commented Mar 8, 2011 at 14:19
  • @Octavian: Thanks for providing the screenshots!
    – MestreLion
    Commented Mar 9, 2011 at 16:02
  • 1
    @Franva: Also, I usually tend to avoid software that's not in the repositories. SearchMonkey in particular does not even have a .DEB installer yet. It seems the project was inactive for 10 years , still uses GTK2, and was revived in 2018 (possibly due to Gnome Search Tools being deleted from Ubuntu). Hopefully they'll migrate away from SourceForge to a proper GitHub hosting, and re-active their currently suspended website. They have a lot of catching up to fill this 10-year gap of inactivity.
    – MestreLion
    Commented Mar 12, 2021 at 13:49


 grep -nr <your text> .

put the text that you want to find inside the <your text>

  • does it look in sub folders
    – S L
    Commented Mar 8, 2011 at 9:02
  • experimentx@workmateX:/var/www/testingzedn$ grep -nr application.ini is taking forever ... am i incorrect
    – S L
    Commented Mar 8, 2011 at 9:07
  • need the dot . , it will look into the folder with the -r
    – wizztjh
    Commented Mar 8, 2011 at 9:18
  • grep -nr application.ini .
    – wizztjh
    Commented Mar 8, 2011 at 9:20

you can use

find . -name '*.*' -exec grep -Hn 'text to find' '{}' \;

-name '*.*' or '*.txt' (use file mask here)
'text to find' (place text you want to find here)

find . -type f -exec grep -Hn 'text to find' '{}' \;

if you want to search all files

  • For all files, do not use -name '*.*' as files do not always have an extension. Use -type f instead (for searching in all files). Replace {} by "{}", otherwise file names with whitespace in it do not get searched correctly.
    – Lekensteyn
    Commented Mar 8, 2011 at 12:31
  • @Lekensteyn i have edited my post. but i made some test with files with whitespaces in names and no error while using {} witout quotes.
    – Mikl
    Commented Mar 8, 2011 at 13:43
  • just tested it too and you are right, whitespace is not a problem. In some shells, the quotes might still be necessary to prevent shell expansion. From man find: "Both of these con‐ structions might need to be escaped (with a `\') or quoted to protect them from expansion by the shell."
    – Lekensteyn
    Commented Mar 8, 2011 at 14:13

I am a fan of searchmonkey (GPL, free, cross-platform, pretty light on resources and very fast).

enter image description here

  • Looks good. Will give it a try on other platforms since the top voted answer fits my bill on Ubuntu.
    – Amol Gawai
    Commented Aug 24, 2012 at 10:18
  • Seems it does not work on 64 bit operating systems (I faced the problem on win 7 64 bit). This is deal breaker for me as I use 64 bit OSes everywhere. Looked promising though.
    – Amol Gawai
    Commented Aug 24, 2012 at 10:25
  • @AmolGawai working perfectly at ubuntu 64bit here... Commented May 20, 2017 at 5:46

GUI (Graphical) tool:


you can find it in Ubuntu main menu

Menu -> Accessories -> Search for Files

or run it using hot key ALT+F2

  • 1
    Just an update for newer Ubuntu versions: on Unity interface (Ubuntu 12 or superior), click on Dash Home (the first icon on toolbar), type "search" and select "Search Files" application.
    – josircg
    Commented Dec 9, 2013 at 13:09

Regexxer will let you search text in files. Not sure what you mean by "in folders".

enter link description here


Graphical search:

in Kubuntu open Dolphin, then Edit->Find (Ctrl+F)

change from filename to Content and adjust from where to look for.


Recoll does indexing and you can do full text searches of documents and email.

  • Looking into 50.000 folders is a pain :D if you don't index the data, so if you cannot buy a SSD disk, install any indexing tool before you waste time looking for files. Do the job once. Even if is not an answer to current question is a good point of view.
    – m3nda
    Commented Aug 30, 2015 at 15:54

I compared three of the suggestions in here with 64 bit 16.04 Kubuntu:

  1. Searchmonkey works with 64-bit Ubuntu nowadays. It is similar to regexxer. It appeared fast, but naturally it is much slower than index based search.
  2. Search for Files and Alt-F2 don't work with the KDE Ubuntu version.
  3. My recommendation is Recoll and I have added some installation instructions for it. For me, the default installation supported PDF (test this!), DOCX, TAR, ZIP etc.

    sudo add-apt-repository "deb http://archive.canonical.com/ $(lsb_release -sc) partner"
    sudo apt-get install recoll antiword
  4. First line is probably not required: it adds partner installation repository.

  5. Antiword is optional. It is needed to support older .doc files.
  6. Enable following symbolic links and the root directory from Recoll Preferencies if necessary.
  7. Create cron job for Recoll indexing using the GUI or make it to start on every login.
  8. Change the Recoll setting in preferences from English to All languages if appropriate for you.
  9. Start the indexing, at least for me it was surprisingly fast and didn't use all resources so I was able to continue using the laptop.
  10. I have found one bug from Recoll so far: if you search for file name with "PST", it doesn't find it even though it is in uppercase. "pst" works and it finds both uppercase and lowercase names.
  11. See more about recoll from https://www.lesbonscomptes.com/recoll/features.html

If you wish to add support for Outlook PST files, then you need to execute the following as well.

    sudo apt-get install readpst
    mkdir ~/PST
    find -L ~ -name "*.pst" -print | awk "{ printf \"%s%s %s%s%s %s\\n\", \"mkdir ~/PST/\", \$1, \"; readpst -o ~/PST/\", \$1, \" -D -j 4 -r -tea -u -w\", \$1 }" > /tmp/myPstFiles
    cat /tmp/myPstFiles
    chmod 755 /tmp/myPstFiles
  1. Change root directory from ~ to / if necessary in the find command.
  2. My find script has a bug in it: it creates too long directory structure now. But it was easier for me to modify the temp file manually than to find a fix to this. Main target was that this will work for several PST files and it does that.
  3. See more about Readpst from http://www.five-ten-sg.com/libpst/rn01re01.html and https://blog.robseder.com/2015/08/29/working-with-a-pst-file-in-linux/

I'm really want to introduce one tool which is based on ncurses library to provide the text-based user interface. The tool called NCGREP(grep based on ncurses) is mainly for search text in the specific folder. Hope this is what you want. This source of the tool has been hosted on github.com, see more at https://github.com/ncgrep/ncgrep

enter image description here
Click image to see demo animation

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