Using the Find Command

by Barry Dysert
(last updated December 12, 2016)

A great utility that exists at the Windows command line is the Find command. If you want to find a string that may exist in a number of files, Find can be a good friend. Without it, you'd likely import your files into Word and use its searching capabilities to do the deed. Using Find at the command line is much quicker, especially when you want it to work across many files.

The Find command accepts several switches to augment how it works. For a complete list of switches, type the following at a command prompt:

C:\> FIND /?

The simplest format of the Find command is

FIND "string to find" files

Let's say that I have two files named Barry1.tmp and Barry2.tmp. They contain some random text, and I want to find all of the lines in those two files that include the word "document". My Find command would look like this:

C:\> FIND "document" Barry?.tmp

This produces the following output: (See Figure 1.)

Figure 1. A simple FIND command.

By default, Find is case sensitive, so if I had instead tried to find "DOCUMENT" (all caps), I'd come up empty: (See Figure 2.)

Figure 2. By default, FIND is case sensitive.

To make Find case insensitive, specify the "/I" switch so that no matter what case the search string is, it will be found: (See Figure 3.)

Figure 3. Using "/I" to make FIND ignore case.

If you want to know what line numbers each of the found strings occurs on, use the "/N" switch like so: (See Figure 4.)

Figure 4. Using "/N" to display line numbers.

Finally, if you don't care to see the lines themselves but merely want to know how many lines contain the searched-for string, you can use the "/C" switch. This lists each file followed by the number of lines that contain the search string: (See Figure 5.)

Figure 5. Using "/C" to display line counts.

Here we see that each file contains 5 lines with the string "document" in them.

 This tip (13501) applies to Windows 7, 8, and 10.

Author Bio

Barry Dysert

Barry has been a computer professional for over 30 years, working in different positions such as technical team leader, project manager, and software developer.  He is currently a senior software engineer with an emphasis on developing custom applications under Microsoft Windows. ...

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