I have a folder with a bunch of subfolders, these folders have asciidoctor formated filed with .adoc extension.

Every time I made changes to files (which is often) I need to run

asciidoctor -q filename.adoc

to compile it into HTML format.

I am trying to automate the process. so far I have come with this using entr:

ls *.adoc | entr asciidoctor -q *.adoc

but only works with existing folder not for subfolders. I have tried this variation, but it doesn't work:

find . -name '*.adoc' | entr asciidoctor -q *.adoc

Any ideas how I could implement this automate process for all the subfolders?


Linux provides a nice interface for monitoring all file system events like creating, modifying, removing files. The interface is inotify family of system calls, the userspace utilities leveraging these calls are provided by the inotify-tools package in Ubuntu (available on the universe repository). If you don't have it already, install by:

sudo apt-get install inotify-tools

inotify-tools provides inotifywait and inotifywatch binaries, we need the first one.

So you want to run the command asciidoctor -q some_file when any .adoc file is modified (some_file will replaced by that), if so assuming your .adoc files are in directory /foo/bar, you can set the watch:

inotifywait -qm --event modify --format '%w' /foo/bar/*.adoc
  • -q enables the quiet mode, no info from inotifywait itself

  • -m enables monitor mode, otherwise it will exit after the first event

  • --event modify, we are only interested in modify event i.e. when a file is modified. Other possible values include open, close etc.

  • --format %w, we only want the file name that is modified rather than bunch of other info as we will use the file name as input to another command

  • /foo/bar/*.adoc will be expanded to all .adoc files under /foo/bar directory

Now the above will show you the filename whenever any is modified, now to run the command on the filename (assuming the command takes arguments via STDIN):

inotifywait -qm --event modify --format '%w' /foo/bar/*.adoc | asciidoctor -q

You can also setup a recursive watch on the directory, you will then need to use grep to filter the desired files only. Here setting the watch recursively (-r) on directory /foo/bar and using grep to filter only .adoc files:

inotifywait -qrm --event modify --format '%w%f' /foo/bar | grep '\.adoc$' | asciidoctor -q

When watching directories the output format specifier %w resolves to the directory name, so we need %f to get the file name. While watching files, %f would resolve to empty string.

Note that, you can also run inotifywait in daemon (-d) mode, you can also script the whole thing, and/or run in background, and/or play with it more other options.

Also, you can replace asciidoctor with any other command of your choice, if you want.

Check man inotifywait to get more idea.

  • Thanks it worked. I also something similar for OSX. but I guess this is not the right place to ask. – bran Aug 31 '16 at 21:06
  • @bran Yes, IMHO go to UL, you can use this as a reference. – heemayl Aug 31 '16 at 21:07
  • Great answer, just a minor correction. -q makes the program "less verbose", -qq (double q) makes it completely silent except for fatal errors. – jotadepicas Dec 6 '18 at 21:37

Using inotifywait is the typical approach, but there's also a separate utility called inotify-hookable that just lets you run a command when a file (or directory) changes:

inotify-hookable -f filename.adoc -c 'asciidoctor -q filename.adoc'

It seems to exit after triggering the command once; I don't see an option for continous watching, so you could do something like:

while true; do
    inotify-hookable -f filename.adoc -c 'asciidoctor -q filename.adoc'
    echo "== $(date) : executed, continuing to monitor..."

Note there are options to monitor several files or a directory, recursively, and options to ignore files/paths.

  • inotify-hookable does not exit after running the command for me. Hmm – Max Feb 12 '18 at 15:14

Well I recommend the following.

for SRC in *.adoc; 
      asciidoctor -q $SRC
  • 1
    OP wants to run the command only when modifications are made.. – heemayl Aug 31 '16 at 18:39

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