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ack – Better than grep?

December 28, 2010 3 comments

I stumbled onto a really nice command line tool named ack while reading a StackOverflow question yesterday.  Living at the domain betterthangrep.com/, it purports to .. be better than grep.  Or, as they put it

ack is a tool like grep, designed for programmers with large trees of heterogeneous source code

I’ve written previously about how to combine find and grep, and really, ack exists to obviate the use of find and grep.  It ignores commonly ignored directories by default (e.g. all those .svn metadata folders that SVN insists on creating), and with a simple command line flag you can tell ack what sort of files you want searched.  Furthermore, because it recurses by default, you don’t need to use the find command to traverse the tree.

Using the todo example, a basic way of searching for the TODOs in all of our java files is to use the command

find . -name "*.java" -exec grep -i -n TODO {} \;

In ack, this is accomplished much easier:

ack -i --java TODO

Furthermore, the matching results are highlighted right away, making it extremely apparent where the matches occur.

I’m going to start using this at work and see if it can replace my grep/find hackery.  Will let you know.  Very impressed so far.

 

If you want to give it a try, the easiest way to install it is with macports:

port install p5-app-ack
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Categories: unix Tags: , , , , , , ,