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I want to find all occurences of foo in a large file system maintained by SVN but I don't want to match anything contained in any .svn directory.

I get immediate matches when I do grep -l -e 'foo' * but when I try and exclude the svn directories with grep -l -e 'foo' --exclude-dir=".svn" the command just hangs.

What am I doing wrong?

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up vote 10 down vote accepted

--exclude-dir does not supplant the need to list files on the command line. You are "hanging" because grep is waiting for standard input.

grep -l -e 'foo' --exclude-dir=".svn" *

Consider using ack, which excludes .svn and similar folders (and has many other features) by default.

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Cleaner if you change * to ., in case there are other hidden folders that should be searched. – Kevin Apr 2 '12 at 17:51
or perhaps you want to use --recursive . instead, seeing as the OP already has GNU grep. – jw013 Apr 2 '12 at 17:53
Personally, I have shopt -s dotglob in Bash, so * already contains dot-files. -r is nice, but ack does that by default too :) – ephemient Apr 2 '12 at 17:54

You might be interested in ack. It does recursive searching (and other grep-like operations), and excludes directories such as .svn or .git by default.

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The grep --exclude-dir... solution should be fine, but just to show another way, you can do this with find's -prune:

find -name .svn -prune -o -type f -exec grep -l "$pattern" {} +

If you want to execute something further, find is better than a plain grep -r:

find -name .svn -prune -o -type f -exec grep -q "$pattern" {} \; -exec ./process {} \;
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Here's an awk solution as well:

find . | awk '$0 !~ /.svn/{print}' | awk '/foo/{print}'

Basically, from all files, prune those that match /.svn/ and then, out of those, print only these ones that match /foo/. I also like this solution as you can easily use the results with ls. For example, you can use

ls -tl $(find . | awk '$0 !~ /.svn/{print}' | awk '/foo/{print}')

to see a list view sorted by modification date. Also, it's nice to have the full path of the results if you want to do something else with them (open them, execute, etc.)

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If you do not want to grep into directories such as .svn ever you can set the $GREP_OPTIONS variable to exclude it as below:

export GREP_OPTIONS="--exclude-dir=\*/.svn/\*"

Just add this line to your .bashrc and your recursive greps will no more enter into .svn directories. Of course, it can be as rich as you want:

export GREP_OPTIONS="--exclude-dir=\*/.svn/\* --exclude-dir=\*/.hg/\* --exclude-dir=\*/.git/\* --exclude=\*~"
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