I want to view text (could be a file or a piped command output) in the terminal, but I would like to highlight a specific pattern in the text with colors, similarly to how grep highlights the pattern match in its output lines.

The reason why I can't use standard grep "pattern" /path/to/file here is because I want to view the entire text (ideally scrollable as if piped through less) and not just the lines containing the pattern.

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    grep --color -E "test|$" yourfile – Android Dev Aug 9 '16 at 23:37
  • Oops, sorry. Had a typo in it. It surprisingly works. Please post as answer @AndroidDev :) – Byte Commander Aug 9 '16 at 23:39
  • Certainly! I'll also include sample output. – Android Dev Aug 9 '16 at 23:42
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    @ByteCommander try the -r or -R switch e.g. grep --color=always -E "test|$" yourfile | less -R – steeldriver Aug 9 '16 at 23:51
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    @steeldriver Thanks, that works. But it requires the grep --color=always, just grep --color is not enough. – Byte Commander Aug 9 '16 at 23:56

Actually, this can be done very easily with some grep parameters.

The magic command you are looking for is:

grep --color -E "test|$" yourfile

Here's some sample output: enter image description here

Full disclosure: That command was taken from this answer.

  • You could include @steeldriver's approach to pipe it through less while preserving colors into your answer. And it would be nice to see an explanation of the command. – Byte Commander Aug 9 '16 at 23:57
  • @ByteCommander - I'll do that a bit later this evening. Have to do something else ATM :) – Android Dev Aug 10 '16 at 0:05
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    It's basically matching a zero-length expression that occurs in every line; because it occurs in every line, every line is output; but because it has zero length, the match isn't highlighted. As well as PATTERN|$ you could use ^|PATTERN or even just |PATTERN (since the empty pattern matches all lines as well). – steeldriver Aug 10 '16 at 0:10

If you're not stuck on color highlighting, you could use less itself e.g.

less +g -p PATTERN file


less +g +/PATTERN file

The +/PATTERN highlights all instances of PATTERN in file, and the +g suppresses the default behavior of scrolling to the first match.

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