I am trying to use Mac Terminal command to move files to a new location.

I have a list of almost 2000 filenames with full paths in a text file. (All of them are in one parent directory, but distributed within multiple sub-directories.) I want to move these files into a single folder outside the parent directory.

How do I do this? I need the command to do something like this:

mv 'files listed in abc.txt' to destination

Thanks in advance.

  • How did you get to the textfile? There may be easy solutions. Otherwise looping the file line by line would be my choice, but there may be better.
    – Bernhard
    Nov 27, 2012 at 18:48
  • I used grep -lir 'keyword' /parentdirectory/* > abc.txt to get the text file. Nov 27, 2012 at 19:11

3 Answers 3


You could do something like create a tar file using your text file as an include file, then untar the file in the new location.

Or a one liner like this might work

while read -r i; do mv "$i" "/new/path/$i" ; done < abc.txt
  • Unfortunately, the filenames in abc.txt follow the format /parentfolder/subfolder_x/filename.xml, where x ranges from 1 to 36. I am trying to move them from these many different locations into a single destination folder. With the above command, I get an error "No such file or directory." It appears that the command is trying to recreate the entire directory structure (/subfolder_x.filename.xml) in the destination folder. Is there a way I can ignore the source path in each filename while moving to the destination folder? Nov 27, 2012 at 21:37
  • @Spartanblogger did you change "/new/path" to path you want the files to go to?
    – jordanm
    Nov 27, 2012 at 22:00
  • @jordanm Yes, I did. Nov 27, 2012 at 22:07
  • It worked. Instead of "/new/path/$i" I used just "/new/path/" and it worked like a charm. Thank you! Nov 27, 2012 at 22:38

Here is an example that doesn't require creating a temporary file first, and will work on all possible filenames:

for f in /parentdirectory/*; do
    if grep -q 'keyword' "$f"; then
        mv "$f" /someotherdir
  • How do I run this? In the terminal? Or in the AppleScript editor? Nov 27, 2012 at 21:46
  • In a terminal. This code will work in any (mostly) POSIX-compliant shell (bash, dash, zsh, ksh, ...).
    – jordanm
    Nov 27, 2012 at 21:58
  • Tried it. It did not do anything. Nov 27, 2012 at 22:02

I tested this in debian for a list in which there was one file path per line

  cat list.txt | xargs mv -R -t copy_to_this_directory
  • 1
    I assume the files also didn't contain spaces. The mv on my Debian workstation from GNU coreutils doesn't have a -R option, and -t is a GNU extension that may not be available on Mac OS X
    – jordanm
    Nov 27, 2012 at 20:25

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