Suppose that I have a directory with name _file and includes two sub directory like _1 and _2 and on each one I have some text files. I want to search a word like foo in one of these text files. How I can do that? I want to know which text files in the whole directory contain that word?

  • the question here shows two options to recursively search a whole directory for the occurrence of strings in textfiles: askubuntu.com/questions/460536/… May 7, 2014 at 12:17
  • Your question is not clear. Do you want to use a terminal command (obviously, but that belongs to the basics of Unix like system learning, you can google that yourself), a given software or what ?
    – user284234
    May 7, 2014 at 12:19
  • @begueradj I did not now there are any softwares for this. So I asked general;) May 7, 2014 at 12:26
  • Please accept the answer by @soulsource as this is a minimalized solution, relative to the suggestion of installing extra software. Aug 10, 2018 at 6:39

4 Answers 4


If you don't want to install additional software, you can simply use grep in the terminal. To recursively search through directories, you can use the -r option (see man grep for details). The syntax you are looking for is probably:


So, for instance if I want to search for the string "asdf" in all files in all subdirectories of "/tmp/testdir/" the command looks like this:

grep -r "asdf" "/tmp/testdir/"

The quotation marks are not strictly necessary, but if your string or directory path contains whitespaces, you otherwise would have to mask them using the \ character...

  • 1
    I'd like to add that on Xubuntu you don't need to specify the directory if you're looking for text in present working directory. Aug 11, 2016 at 7:22
  1. Open a terminal.
  2. Install ack-grep by typing sudo apt-get install ack-grep
  3. Change to the directory you want to search under, and type ack-grep foo. it lists out all the matches in all files under that directory.
  • 1
    After install running ack-grep soemthing results error on my Ubuntu Desktop 17.
    – Nam G VU
    Oct 10, 2017 at 3:17
  • PS: the latest version just using ack, instead of ack-grep. So, for example, if you want to search /home/luciano/Desktop/, it would be, first go to the directory you want to search in, and then ack /home/luciano/Desktop/.
    – bim
    Oct 28, 2022 at 14:54

You can use recursive grep with the -l flag to only print the file's name instead of the matched line:

grep -Rl foo .

Or, you can use find:

find . -type f -exec grep -l foo {} +

Or. you can use extglob and normal grep

shopt -s extglob
grep -l foo **/*

Just install gnome-search-tool using sudo apt-get install gnome-search-tool
Search in dash for 'search for files' and launch it.

See image below:

enter image description here

  1. Leave the 'name contains' section empty.
  2. Select your folder.
  3. Unfold the 'select more options' part and choose 'contains the text' and then press add.
  4. Type here the text you want to search for and click find at the bottom right corner.


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