How do I find all files containing specific text on Linux?

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Question Description

I’m trying to find a way to scan my entire Linux system for all files containing a specific string of text. Just to clarify, I’m looking for text within the file, not in the file name.

When I was looking up how to do this, I came across this solution twice:

find / -type f -exec grep -H 'text-to-find-here' {} \;

However, it doesn’t work. It seems to display every single file in the system.

Is this close to the proper way to do it? If not, how should I? This ability to find text strings in files would be extraordinarily useful for some programming projects I’m doing.

Practice As Follows

Do the following:

grep -rnw '/path/to/somewhere/' -e 'pattern'
  • -r or -R is recursive,
  • -n is line number, and
  • -w stands for match the whole word.
  • -l (lower-case L) can be added to just give the file name of matching files.

Along with these, --exclude, --include, --exclude-dir or --include-dir flags could be used for efficient searching:

  • This will only search through those files which have .c or .h extensions:

    grep --include=\*.{c,h} -rnw '/path/to/somewhere/' -e "pattern"
    
  • This will exclude searching all the files ending with .o extension:

grep --exclude=*.o -rnw '/path/to/somewhere/' -e "pattern"
  • Just like exclude files, it’s possible to exclude/include directories through --exclude-dir and --include-dir parameter. For example, this will exclude the dirs dir1/, dir2/ and all of them matching *.dst/:
grep --exclude-dir={dir1,dir2,*.dst} -rnw '/path/to/somewhere/' -e "pattern"

This works very well for me, to achieve almost the same purpose like yours.

For more options check man grep.

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