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How to Use Grep Command in Linux + Useful Grep Examples

Linux operating system based servers usually have no graphical interface for security reasons. In this case, it becomes very important to know and know how to manipulate the Linux terminal.

A very useful operation that we can perform with the terminal is searching inside a text file. Above all, if we work with configuration files of services like NTP.

In this post, we will teach you how to use the grep command in Linux (Unix), and reinforce the learning with a useful example for your daily workflow.

How to Use the grep Command?

The grep command belonging to the Unix family is one of the most versatile and useful tools available. It looks in a text file for a pattern that we define. In other words, with grep you can search for a word or pattern and the line or lines that have it will be printed.

At first sight, it can be a command of little utility, however, sysadmins that handle many services with various configuration files, use it to query or search for specific lines within those files.

First, connect to the VPS using SSH. Here’s an article that shows how to do it using PuTTY SSH.

ssh your-user@your-server

If you’re running Linux on your computer, just open a terminal.

The grep command syntax when searching for a single file looks like this:

grep [options] pattern [FILE]
  • grep – the command instruction
  • [options] – modifiers to the command
  • pattern – the search query to be found
  • [FILE] – the file you’re performing the search in

You can see the documentation and explanations of various options by executing this command in the command line:

grep –help

As you can see there are many possibilities that the command offers us. However, the most important and commonly used options are the:

  • -i – the search won’t be case sensitive. That is, if you want to search for the word “car” it will be the same as “CAR”
  • -c – it will show only the number of lines that match the pattern searched
  • -r – enables recursive search in the current directory
  • -n – search for lines and find the receive only the matched numbers of the text lines
  • -v – with this option, we are shown the lines that do not match the pattern we have looked for

Some Useful grep Examples

Let’s look some practical examples of the grep command.

Finding a Word in a Text File

To search for a word in a text file, just type the command:

grep query file
  • query – the word you’re looking for
  • file – the file in which you’re looking for the query

In our case, we’re looking for the word command in a file called grep:

grep command grep

The output highlights the lines that match the query like this:

The search output of the grep command performed in a linux terminal

 

Find a Word Ignoring Case Letters

To do this, it is necessary to add the option -i.

grep -i query file

That’s it, simple as that!

Target Query Word Count

Using the grep command you can find out how many times a word is used in the text file. Just add the option -c.

grep -c query file

Searching for Multiple Keywords

So far we have pointed out examples where we search for one word. Grep supports multiple queries in a single command. The command would look like this:

grep query1 file | grep query2 file

The command works in a very simple manner. First, we search for Query1 and then we pass through the pipe to a second grep command for the second word – Query2.

Finding a Word in a Set of Files

It is also possible to search a set of files in a single command:

grep -l word_to_search ./*

In the terminal, the files that have the word you searched for will be displayed in the output.

Conclusion

Using the grep command can make work much easier if we work with a lot of text files. That’s why grep is considered a very versatile command with many possibilities of use.

In this post, you learned what are the most common functions of the Linux grep command. On the other hand, we recommend you consult the official documentation to broaden your knowledge of it! Happy developing.

About the author

Edward S.

Edward is Hostinger's copywriter. He's an expert communicator with years of experience in IT as a writer, marketer, and Linux enthusiast. IT is a core pillar of his life, personal and professional. Edward's goal is to encourage millions to achieve an impactful online presence. He also really loves dogs, guitars, and everything related to space.

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