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Is there a way to force the find command to stop right after finding the first match?

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3 Answers 3

up vote 36 down vote accepted

With GNU find, you can use the -quit predicate:

find . ... -print -quit

If all you do is printing the name, and assuming the filenames don't contain newline characters, you could do:

find . ... -print | head -n 1

That will not stop find after the first match, but possibly, depending on timing upon the second match or later. Basically, find will be terminated with a SIGPIPE when it tries to output something while head is already gone because it has already read and displayed the first line of input.

If you're doing more than printing the paths of the found files, you could try this approach:

find . ... -exec bash -c 'printf "%s\n" "$1"; kill "$PPID"' bash {} \;

(replace printf with whatever you would be doing with that file).

That has the side effect of find returning an exit status reflecting the fact that it was killed though.

Actually, using the SIGPIPE signal instead of SIGTERM (kill -s PIPE instead of kill) will cause some shells to be more silent about that death (but would still return a non-zero exit status).

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In case anybody needs to test whether any file matches the predicates, stopping as soon as one is found, in Bash and GNU Find you can do: if [[ $(find ... -print -quit) ]]; then ... It just tests whether find printed anything at all. –  Tobia Dec 19 '14 at 18:26

For entertainment purposes, here's a lazy find generator in Bash. This example generates a ring over the files in the current directory. Read however many you want then kill %+ (maybe just 1)

#!/usr/bin/env bash
unset -v files n
trap 'kill "$x_PID"' EXIT

coproc x while :; do
    find . -type f -maxdepth 1 -exec sh -c "$(</dev/fd/3)" _ {} +
done 4<&0 <<\EOF 3<&0 <&4-
for x; do
    read -r _
    printf '%s\0' "$x"

    echo >&${x[1]}
    IFS= read -rd '' -u "$x" 'files[n++]'
    printf '%q ' "${files[@]}"
    sleep .2
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find . -name something -print -quit Terminates find after the first match after printing it.

Terminate find after a specific amount of matches and print results: find . -name something -print | head -n 5 Surprisingly enough - head now terminates string after 5 matches, though I do not know how or why.

It is very easy to test: Just let find search a on root which would result thousands, maybe even more matches while taking at least a minute or more. But when piped into "head" "find" will terminate after the specified amount of lines defined in head (default head shows 10, use "head -n" to specify lines).

Note that this will terminate after "head -n" reaches the specified newline character count and therefore any match that contains multiple newline characters will count accordingly.

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