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find command tips

Expert Oracle Tips by Burleson Consulting

March 22, 2011

Searching for Files

Even before installing additional software is started, there are literally tens of thousands of files on a Linux system.  Thankfully, the find command can help with locating what is needed.

find command

The find commandis a very flexible and powerful command.  Later in the book it will be shown how it can be used to search for files by age, size and many other properties.  For now, just focus on finding files by name.

The find command uses a somewhat more complicated syntax than the other commands that you have been given so far.  It first takes an argument that specifies where to search, and then one of several options can be given to specify what criteria to search by.

$ find ./ -name required_packages.txt


Here the -name optionis shown that tells find to search for files with the name given.  The find command returns the location of the path to every file with that name, but only within the specified search area.  In this example, the search area will be all directories beneath the current working directory as noted by the ./ value.

When first starting out, it is best to limit the searches to small areas.  In the case above, it has been limited to only searching within the current working directory.

Learning More

This book focuses on the commands that are most useful to the Oracle DBA, but there are many more commands available and other options that may be useful in specific circumstances.  Thankfully, help is not far away.  There is a way to look up more information on a command right at the Linux command line.

man command

The best way to learn more about a command is usually its man page.  The man command is a Linux command that searches several locations on the system for manual pages, or documentation that is distributed electronically with most Linux software.

To access the man page for a specific command, enter the man commandand provide the command you wish to learn more about as an argument.

$ man ls
LS(1)                            User Commands                     
       ls - list directory contents
       ls [OPTION]... [FILE]...
       List  information  about the FILEs (the current direc-
       tory by default).  Sort entries alphabetically if none
       of -cftuvSUX nor --sort.
       Mandatory  arguments to long options are mandatory for
       short options too.
       -a, --all
              do not ignore entries starting with .
       -A, --almost-all
              do not list implied . and ..
              with -l, print the author of each file
       -b, --escape
              print octal escapes for nongraphic characters

The man pages are typically displayed on the screen in the less file viewer, very similar to more, in which the arrow keys can be used to navigate, or ‘space’ used to move a page down and ‘b’ to move a page up. The man pages are typically displayed in the format shown above.  First, there is the command name with a short description, then a synopsis that shows the order of options and arguments that can be used with this command.

Next is a more detailed description of the command followed by all the valid options for the given command.  It is not unusual for a command to have dozens of options.  This can be quite overwhelming at first, but the more these commands are used, the more comfortable one will become with their options.

Knowing how to read and interpret the man pages is essential to learning about commands, but without a firm foundation they will have little meaning.  Hopefully, at this point parts of the man pages are better understood, and by the end of the next chapter, most of what the man pages have to offer should also be understood.

whatis and info commands

Two other commands that give information about other commands are whatis and info.  Both accept an argument much like the man command.

The whatis commandprints just a short description of the command in question.

$ whatis ls 

ls                   (1)  - list directory contents
ls                   (1p) - list directory contents

The whatis command is dependent on a database which has to occasionally be rebuilt to include new software, but as can be seen in the output above, it offers a nice succinct description.

The info commandis similar to man but uses a different set of files to display command documentation.

$ info mkdir 

12.3 `mkdir': Make directories

`mkdir' creates directories with the specified names.  Synopsis: 

     mkdir [OPTION]... NAME...

If a NAME is an existing file but not a directory, `mkdir' prints a warning message on stderr (standard error) and exits with a status of 1 after processing any remaining NAMEs.  The same is done when a NAME is an existing directory and the -p option is not given.  If a NAME is an existing directory and the -p option is given, `mkdir' ignores it. That is, `mkdir' does not print a warning, raise an error, or change the mode of the directory, even if the -m option is given, and will move on to processing any remaining NAMEs.

   The program accepts the following options.  Also see *Note Common options:

`-m MODE'

Set the mode of created directories to MODE, which is symbolic as in chmod and uses a=rwx (read, write and execute allowed for everyone) for the point of the departure. 

Most commands have more documentation in the man page than is available in info, but there are occasional exceptions, so it is worth keeping info in mind.  Unlike the man and whatis commands, info can be called without any arguments.  That displays a list of commands for which info pages are available.



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