I'm a command line novice trying to figure out the appropriate command to execute the following within the Terminal in Mac OS X.

Assuming I've placed all files in the same directory, I want to isolate and move a selected set of directory files listed in a text file to a new directory, how do I:

  • read the selected list of filenames listed in a .txt file

  • find all matches by filename

  • isolate and move all file matches to a new directory

I've found this command to find (either or both) a filestring.filetype in a current directory and move all matches to a new directory:

find . -type f -iname "filestring.filetype" -print0 |
  xargs -0 -J % mv % ~/NewDirectory/

And I've found this tar command however it creates an archive copy of each filename listed in filename.txt

tar -cf - -T filename.txt | (cd /path/to/new/dir && tar -xvf -)

Any help is much appreciated!

The following solution was provided by a trusted source:

cat "filename.txt" | xargs -I % mv % ~/NewDirectory/
  • Did any of those commands accomplish what you wanted?
    – schaiba
    Feb 8, 2013 at 22:18
  • Unfortunately, no. The tar command is closest however it creates an archive copy of the files listed in the filename and leaves the original directory files untouched. Feb 8, 2013 at 22:50

2 Answers 2


You could try this. Works with bash.

while read file
    mv -v -i "$file" ~/NewDirectory/
done < listoffiles.txt
  • Thank-you however this doesn't seem to execute in the Terminal Feb 8, 2013 at 23:18
  • I have bash 3.2 installed, doesn't seem work. Any other ideas? Feb 8, 2013 at 23:37
  • 1
    You sure you typed it in correctly? I don't have access to any system with bash 3.2, but it also works in a busybox shell... -- also what's doesn't seem to work mean exactly? Error message? Feb 8, 2013 at 23:49
  • Thanks for getting back. I typed it letter-for-letter in the Terminal. I type each line, hit enter after each, after the last line, nothing happens as if the command isn't initiated. Feb 8, 2013 at 23:54
  • 1
    That'd happen if the listoffiles.txt is empty. You could run it in a bash -x shell (debug output). Even if the file is empty it should show a + read file at the very least... otherwise I'm out of ideas, sorry. Feb 9, 2013 at 0:00

The find ... xargs solution you suggested works for me using Bash version 3.2.48(1)-release on Mac OS X 10.6.8.

mkdir -v -p ~/NewDirectory
find . -type f -maxdepth 1 -iname "*.pdf" -print0 |
   xargs -0 -J % mv -i -v % ~/NewDirectory

If you are going to use a text file containing the full paths of the files to be moved, make sure that each file path stored in the text file is terminated by a null byte. This way even newline characters in your file paths will not be of concern to you in the future.

# some tests
mkdir -v -p ~/NewDirectory
find "${PWD}" -type f -maxdepth 1 -print0 > listoffiles.txt
xargs -0 -n 1 ls -l <listoffiles.txt
# use a grep regex filter on file paths
grep -az 'bash' listoffiles.txt | xargs -0 -n 1 ls -l  
xargs -0 -n 1 sh -c 'echo mv -v -i "$1" ~/NewDirectory' _ <listoffiles.txt
xargs -0 -J % ls -ld % ~/NewDirectory <listoffiles.txt
xargs -0 -J % mv -i -v % ~/NewDirectory <listoffiles.txt

To debug your code in Bash use:

#help set
set -Eeuxv -o pipefail +H   # for debugging
trap 'printf "%s\n" "$?"; trap - EXIT' EXIT HUP INT QUIT PIPE TERM ERR

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