ack = a better grep "ignores most of the crap you don't want to search"

If you’ve ever use grep to search a svn directory you’ll know the issues re .svn folders, easiest solution is to use ack


ack is a tool like grep, optimized for programmers Andy Lester

How to install

curl >  ~/bin/ack &&; chmod 0755 !#:3

Top reasons to use ack instead of grep

  • It’s blazingly fast because it only searches the stuff you want searched.
  • ack is pure Perl, so it runs on Windows just fine.
  • The standalone version uses no non-standard modules, so you can put it in your ~/bin without fear.
  • Searches recursively through directories by default, while ignoring .svn, CVS and other VCS directories.
  • ack ignores most of the crap you don’t want to search
    • VCS directories
    • blib, the Perl build directory
    • backup files like foo~ and #foo#
    • binary files, core dumps, etc
  • Ignoring .svn directories means that ack is faster than grep for searching through trees
  • Lets you specify file types to search, as in –perl or –nohtml
    • ack -f --perl > all-perl-files
  • Color highlighting of search results


Which would you rather type?

$ grep pattern $(find . -type f | grep -v '\.svn')


$ ack pattern


grep pattern $(find . -name '*.pl' -or -name '*.pm' -or -name '*.pod' | grep -v .svn)


ack --perl pattern
  • Note that ack’s --perl also checks the shebang lines of files without suffixes, which the find command will not

Justin Kelly

Justin Kelly

Data Engineeer, Business Analytics, Web Developer, Library Technology specialising in PHP and Tableau

Based in Melbourne, Australia

Feel free to contact me or _justin_kelly