I have this command:

ls -Ra | grep -cve/ -e'^\.*$'

and I would like to do exactly the same with find

I tried this find . -name "^\.*$" -o -print | wc -l but the problem is, if I create new file like this: touch "^.*$" It will not work out the same way.

Please, any idea, how to change it to make it work the same?

  • I think that I have found out where is the problem. in -e. But what difference it makes?
    – Mafi
    Apr 20, 2016 at 11:45

2 Answers 2


The problem

What are you trying to do? Let me try to explain your command so I understand it:

ls -Ra | grep -cve/ -e'^\.*$' will give you:

  • The number of files, directories, symbolic links, ...
  • Including the current directory
  • Excluding files with names only consisting of dots: touch '...' (!!!)

The solution

If you want to do the exactly the same with find, you can use:

find . -not -regex '^\.+$' | wc -l

If the more-than-two-dots files thing is a mistake, this is it:

find . | wc -l

Or (theoretically) the 'ls' way by using the following - making the a uppercase won't print current and parent directory:

ls -RA | grep -cve/ -e^\$

A little bit about timing

               except multidots    all files    number of files
  ls /home                0.75s        0.70s            ~330000
find /home                0.50s        0.50s            ~330000
  ls /                    2.50s        2.50s           ~1350000
find /                    1.90s        1.70s           ~1350000
  ls / [BSD]             10.00s        8.50s            ~250000
find / [BSD]              7.50s        7.50s            ~250000

You can see, find is pretty much always faster. But we didn't optimize it yet!

Adding the option -f to ls skips sorting and thus speeds up the process by approximately 30% (yielding 1.60s for /), making ls -RAf | grep -cve/ -e^\$ the fastest one of the commands. However, it seems to do nothing on FreeBSD...

Good to know: The extreme time difference when checking for multiple dots on BSD (FreeBSD in this case) probably originates mainly from the way GNU Grep works and the fact that it's a lot faster.
The longer times on BSD vs Linux probably are just because the BSD machine I tested this on is a lot slower, and maybe also because it's using another file system.


The fastest command to get the number of all filesystem nodes inside a directory with standard tools on Linux is:

ls -RAf | grep -cve/ -e^\$

A shorter command which is also the faster one on FreeBSD (and, additionally, actually answers your question) is:

find . | wc -l

The difference is that if you use -name you only match against the basename of the file. From man find:

-name pattern
     Base of  file  name  (the  path  with  the  leading  directories
     removed)  matches  shell  pattern  pattern.   The metacharacters
     (`*', `?', and `[]') match a `.' at the start of the  base  name
     (this is a change in findutils-4.2.2; see section STANDARDS CON‐
     FORMANCE below). <snip>

To get similar behaviour as when using ls -Ra you should be using -regex:

-regex pattern
     File  name  matches regular expression pattern.  This is a match
     on the whole path, not a search. <snip>

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