I need to look for the string "Total CPU time used" in a set of files that are generated in an iterative calculation within a great number of subfolders called folder_A, folder_B, folder_C and so on.

So in folder_A i would have

file_1_1 file_1_2 file_1_3 file_1_4 file_1_5 file_2_1 file_2_2 file_2_3

next to some other files with different names. In folder_B there would be

file_1_1 file_1_2 file_1_3 file_1_4 file_1_5 file_2_1 file_2_2 file_2_3 file_2_4 file_2_5 file_3_1

and so on, so every subfolder would contain a different amount of iterative steps and thus a different number appending the last file. I think the way to go is using recursive grep sorting out the alphabetically last file, the code I've tried is:

grep -r "Total CPU time used" */file_* | tail -1

However this only gives me an output of the last file in the last directory folder_Z. How do I grep the string from all subdirectories so that folder_A/file_2_3, folder_B/file_3_1 and so on are not skipped?

  • I think your question hints at a for loop... if it works, then yes that's what I need.
    – And
    Jan 7, 2019 at 13:30
  • There are other files present that are named differently. I'm only interested in the files specified in the post.
    – And
    Jan 7, 2019 at 13:41
  • OK but then, do you know that the files are sorted by default in lexicographical order so file_1_10 will sort before file_1_2 ? Do you want the last one in lexicographical order (e.g. file_1_2)or do you want the last one as in "sorted by version" (file_1_10) ? Jan 7, 2019 at 13:47
  • Well the counting always stops at file_1_5 and resumes with file_2_1, so this should be no problem. But what I need would be file_1_10.
    – And
    Jan 7, 2019 at 13:54
  • In that case (file names contain only numbers between 1 and 9) you already have an answer that works. Jan 7, 2019 at 13:57

1 Answer 1


It's the tail -1 that gives you the last line of the result of the grep call. This likely comes from a match in the last file in the last directory.

Instead, you will need to loop over the directories. This is using bash:

for dir in folder_*/; do
    files=( "$dir"/file_* )
    grep -F 'Total CPU time used' "${files[-1]}"

This would iterate over the directories. For each directory, the last file (in the dictionary order sense) is grepped for the string that you are searching for.

I'm using -F with grep as I'm looking for a fixed string and not a regular expression.

If you want to additionally get the filename of the file in the grep output, then either tag on /dev/null as a last argument to grep (grep will include the filename when matching across more than one file operand), or use grep with -H, if your grep supports it.

  • The last paragraph is especially helpful!
    – And
    Jan 7, 2019 at 14:02

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