Though probably a good opportunity for using just a file manager like the Midnight Commander, I wonder if there is an elegant way to do it from the shell:

Let's say I want to copy a file from one directory to another. The directory is huge and has long, complicated or even partially cryptic filenames. I don't know the exact name, only that it contains penguin.

  1. I first do a search find . -iname "*penguin*" | less

  2. I look at the results:

  3. I want to copy the "funny penguin" file. Then I remember some relevant parts of the intricate filename and type in the shell command, like

    cp FUn*penguin /media/share

How could I make this faster? How can I in all-text mode get the file name from the search results right as a command line argument?

  • 1 and 2 won't be needed with a shell like zsh. You can simply type cp ./<tab><tab> use the arrow keys to explore the directory and then continue typing out a path with *s if needed, Press tab again and fill in the path. One more tab and you can view/set the command's other arguments like -r or -v as well. – Hydranix Feb 10 '17 at 21:58
  • @Hydranix but with subdirectories it will be necessary. – wolf-revo-cats Feb 10 '17 at 22:21
  • @Hydranix also if you have a directory with a lot of files and a preliminary search is necessary – wolf-revo-cats Feb 10 '17 at 22:22
  • You can parse into subdirectories as well as parent directories if need be. **/*pattern*/** is valid and will search in both directions. – Hydranix Feb 10 '17 at 23:52

You can use the TAB key to auto complete filesystem paths for most shells.

bash supports this and a bit more.

The most interactive shell I've come across however is zsh, with a customized configuration file like grml's zsh config and oh-my-zsh.

With zsh you can do autocomplete with globs and even complete several files at once.

Without knowning what flavor of Unix or Linux you're using, the best I can tell you is to check your software repository or compile zsh yourself.

Assuming Linux due to your mention of penguins, check with your package manager for the following:


And for advanced rc files enabling support for many cool things in the shell


I found a way to do it:

find . -iname "*penguin*" | pick | xargs -J % cp -i % /media/share
  • actually, this has problems with file names with whitespaces. In GNU xargs one can use the -d \n which solves the problem. I don't know how to do it with FreeBSD xargs, though. – wolf-revo-cats Feb 10 '17 at 12:45

using -exec option find can also execute a command, ie:

find . -iname "*penguin*" -exec cp {} /media/share \;

where {} is substituted by a name.

btw. man find is great! :)


you can try this.

remove the echo command, once you are happy with the output

find . -iname "*penguin*" | awk '/penguin$/' | while read filename
    echo "cp ${filename} /media/share"

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