Taming the TerminalThis is the third and final instalment on searching. In the first instalment we learned how to search for text within files and streams using egrep. In the second we learned to search for files based on all sorts of criteria with the find command. In this final instalment we’ll start by looking at one last feature of find, its a ability to execute commands on the files it finds. Then we’ll end by looking at an OS X-only alternative to find that makes use of the Spotlight search index to really speed up searches.

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Taming the TerminalIn the previous previous instalment we looked at using egrep to search for a particular piece of text in a stream or file. egrep is often a great tool for finding a file you are looking for, but only if the file is a plain text file, and only if you are searching for that file based on its content. What if you want to search for files based on other criteria, like the last time the file was edited, or the name of the file, or the size of the file, or the type of the file etc.? For that you need a different command, for that you need find.

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Taming the TerminalIn the previous two instalments (17 & 18) of this series we learned how to represent patters with regular expressions, or, to be more specific, with POSIX Extended Regular Expression (or EREs). We used the egrep command to test our regular expressions, but we didn’t discus the command itself in detail. Now that we understand regular expressions, it’s time to take a closer look at both egrep, and it’s older brother grep, both commands for filtering and searching text.

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Taming the TerminalIn the previous instalment we introduced the concept of Regular Expressions, and started to learn the POSIX ERE regular expression language, noting that POSIX ERE is a sub-set of the very commonly used Per Compatible Regular Expression (PCRE) language.

In this instalment we’ll learn more POSIX ERE syntax, and have a look at some examples of REs in GUI apps.

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Taming the TerminalThis instalment is the start of a series of instalments relating to searching from the command line. Searching is all about patterns, and that means getting to grips with Regular Expressions (also called RegExps, RegExes or REs for short). Regular Expressions are languages for representing patterns, and are used throughout IT, not just on the command line. While this series focuses on the Terminal, an understanding of regular expressions will be helpful in many other places, from programming languages to GUI apps like programming editors, search utilities or file re-namers. It’s going to take us two instalments to properly describe regular expressions, but when we’re done we’ll have gained a very useful skill.

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Taming the TerminalIn the previous instalment we introduced the concepts of streams, and looked at how every process has references to three streams as part of their environment – STDIN, STDOUT & STDERR. We went on to introduce the concept of operators that manipulate these streams, and we focused on the so-called ‘pipe’ operator which connects STDOUT in one process to STDIN in another, allowing commands to be chained together to perform more complex tasks. We mentioned the existence of operators for connecting streams to files, and the possibility of streams being merged together, but didn’t go into any detail. Well, that’s what we’ll be doing in this instalment.

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Taming the TerminalRight back in the very first instalment we described the Unix philosophy as being Lego-like, that is, having lots of simply commands that do one thing well, and then assembling them together to do something really powerful. So far, we’ve only been working with a single command at a time, but that changes with this instalment. We’ll be introducing the concept of streams, which can be used to connect commands and files together.

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Taming the TerminalIn the previous instalment we looked at how to make permanent changes to our environment. We made a permanent change to the PATH environment variable to demonstrate how it’s done (by editing ~/.bash_profile on a Mac, or ~/.bashrc on Linux). In this instalment we’ll look at two other kinds of environment changes you may wish to make by editing these files – specifically, aliases, and custom prompts.

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Taming the TerminalIn the previous instalment we introduced the concept of the command shell environment, and we looked in detail at how shell and environment variables work. In this instalment we’ll focus on probably the single most important environment variable, PATH. We’ll look at what it does, how it’s initialised, and, in the process, we’ll learn how to make persistent customisations to our shell environment.

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Taming the TerminalGiven the times we live in, the word ‘environment’ probably invokes images of polar bears and melting ice, but the Al Gore definition of the word ‘environment’ is a relatively recent narrow definition of a much broader word. The first definition of the work in the OS X dictionary is:

The surroundings or conditions in which a person, animal, or plant lives or operates

In this instalment we’ll introduce a digital extension of this concept – the digital conditions within which a process exists, and specifically, in which a BASH command shell exists. Although this might sound like a simple topic, there’s actually a lot to cover, so we’ll be spreading it out over a few instalments.

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