Ubuntu 14.04 Trusty Tahr.

Suppose I have directory called 'testmag' which may contain 100s of xml files and directories which in turn contain many xml files as well. I don't know names of any xml files but I know 1 of them contains tag <dbname>....</dbname>.

Now how to find the file containing the aforementioned tag and grep the tag's value as output in terminal


Here is a solution with find that will also output the filenames of files containing a match:

find . -name "*.xml" -exec grep '<dbname>' {} \;             \
                     -exec echo -e {}"\n" \;                 \
                     | sed 's/<dbname>\(.*\)<\/dbname>/\1/g'


  1. find . -name "*.xml" find all xml files recursively from current directory
  2. -exec grep '<dbname>' {} \; on each file search for pattern <dbname>
  3. -exec echo -e {}"\n" \; echo filename + new line (-e option makes echo interpret \n)
  4. | sed 's/<dbname>\(.*\)<\/dbname>/\1/g' pipe output to sed to print only the field contained between the <dbname></dbname> tags.

NOTE1: you can format output in your echo -e ... to have results for each file clearly laid out, e.g. by adding new lines, or lines of underscore, whatever suits your need.

NOTE2: path to each file will be given relatively to . (e.g. ./subfolder1/file.xml). If you want absolute path, go for find $PWD -name ....

  • This exactly answers my query, perfect !!! Thanks @Valentin B. – Vicky Dev Oct 21 '16 at 18:49
  • Well as far as question is concerned, your post answers it, no doubt, but just one query out of curiosity, if you don't mind. With above find command if I want to look for only <dbname>...</dbname> tag having <![CDATA[ as it's content's starting string and ignore the rest of the <dbname>... matches, how can I achieve it ? – Vicky Dev Oct 21 '16 at 18:55
  • Hi Vicky, simply add the pattern in your grep command, ... -exec grep '<dbname><![CDATA[' {} \; ... – Valentin B. Oct 24 '16 at 9:21

Suppose we have directory XMLS containing these files:

cat XMLS/file1
foo bar <dbname>target</dbname> baz
foo foo

cat XMLS/file2

I would use this command:

grep -r '<dbname>' XMLS/ | sed 's/.*<dbname>\(.*\)<\/dbname>.*/\1/'

Which, as you can see, returns the value inside the <dbname> tags. And not the value inside the <name> tags.

The -r flag for grep searches recursively.

sed strips the string of everything except the value target.

  • Can I use . for recursive search inside current directory ? – Vicky Dev Oct 21 '16 at 11:08
  • @VickyDev Yes, . works fine. – maulinglawns Oct 21 '16 at 11:09
  • Why is target on second line ? Is it required in code ? – Vicky Dev Oct 21 '16 at 11:11
  • @VickyDev What? No. That is the actual output from the command. – maulinglawns Oct 21 '16 at 11:12
  • @maulinglawns You should add g at the end of your sed instructions otherwise in case of multiple matches from grep only the first pattern will be processed. – Valentin B. Oct 21 '16 at 12:36

Using a proper XML parser to parse XML:

shopt -s globstar nullglob
for file in **/*.xml; do 
    dbname=$(xmlstarlet sel -t -v '//dbname' "$file")
    [[ -n "$dbname" ]] && printf "%s\t%s\n" "$file" "$dbname"

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