So I less my file:

less myFile.log

Then I try to search for a value:


I've since learned less uses regex, so . is a wildcard. I've tried to escape it with no success.

  • 11
    How did you "try to escape it with no success" without using a backslash?
    – Xen2050
    Jan 15, 2019 at 23:38
  • 1
    You answered your own question. If I used a backslash I would have succeeded, wouldn't I have..?
    – notAChance
    Jan 18, 2019 at 13:45
  • Maybe I'll rephrase it slightly: What exactly did you type when you tried to escape the decimal with no success? Or did you only press slash to search, then typed 70.5? Maybe there's a misunderstanding of "escape"?
    – Xen2050
    Jan 18, 2019 at 22:15

3 Answers 3


You can turn off regex mode by hitting Ctrl+R before typing the pattern:

          ^R     Don't interpret regular expression metacharacters; that is,
                 do a simple textual comparison.
  • Amazing trick, thanks for this! Is it specific to less?
    – notAChance
    Jan 15, 2019 at 16:52
  • @xeon48 likely it is - at least, I don't think more supports it (although other pagers may provide something equivalent) Jan 15, 2019 at 16:54
  • Thanks steel, I'll play around with it when I get a chance :)
    – notAChance
    Jan 15, 2019 at 16:55
  • @xeon48 : it seems specific to less, but there are some alternatives (fgrep "something" file(s) : will look for the exact string "something" in the file(s), doing a car by car comparison and not as a regexp) Jan 16, 2019 at 12:50

will do the trick (inside less).

  • 6
    Alternatively: /70[.]5.
    – jamesdlin
    Jan 15, 2019 at 23:10

Two search expressions for numbers in less

/\.*[0-9]+\.*     # for numbers

/[0-9]*\.[0-9]+   # for numbers with a decimal part

Regex to search for numbers (with or without a decimal)

This regex works in less but also in other cases where the same regex syntax is used.


You start the search engine with /, so if you want to find decimal numbers, but avoid text with dots (like file.txt) or periods between sentences, I think the following string is rather good,


Test file

There are several ways to use a dot. Here are some examples:

- 'Period' finishing a sentence
- Short for current directory or 'source' command in linux shells
- Separator between the name and extension of a file
- Separator in between the integer part and decimal part of a number
- Separator in special numerical or litteral strings (for example IP adress)

The following regex expression is rather simple and can identify
- numbers
- numerial strings


asdf 170.5 qwerty

enter image description here

Regex to search for numbers with a decimal part

This regex works in less but also in other cases where the same regex syntax is used.


The corresponding search command is


It will also find numerical strings (for example IP address), in general digits after a dot (including digits before the dot, if any).

  • Thanks for this, it will come in useful. Though the lesson learned here is brush up on my regex :)
    – notAChance
    Jan 15, 2019 at 16:48
  • 1
    [0-9]*\.[0-9]* matches on a single .. * matches on zero or more. Jan 15, 2019 at 17:23
  • @StéphaneChazelas, Yes, I know, and I am busy trying to get around that without getting a complicated expression ...
    – sudodus
    Jan 15, 2019 at 17:25
  • 1
    [0-9]+(\.[0-9]*)? or even [0-9]+(\.[0-9]+)? maybe? Jan 15, 2019 at 18:04
  • @StephenKitt, I think your first expression finds the same 'candidates' as my first string \.*[0-9]+\.* in the current version of the answer. Your second string will exclude some of dots (which may be good or bad depending on what the user wants to see).
    – sudodus
    Jan 15, 2019 at 19:47

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