|ACK(1)||User Contributed Perl Documentation||ACK(1)|
ack [options] PATTERN [FILE...] ack -f [options] [DIRECTORY...]
ack searches the named input FILEs or DIRECTORYs for lines containing a match to the given PATTERN. By default, ack prints the matching lines. If no FILE or DIRECTORY is given, the current directory will be searched.
PATTERN is a Perl regular expression. Perl regular expressions are commonly found in other programming languages, but for the particulars of their behavior, please consult <https://perldoc.perl.org/perlreref.html|perlreref>. If you don't know how to use regular expression but are interested in learning, you may consult <https://perldoc.perl.org/perlretut.html|perlretut>. If you do not need or want ack to use regular expressions, please see the "-Q"/"--literal" option.
Ack can also list files that would be searched, without actually searching them, to let you take advantage of ack's file-type filtering capabilities.
ack is intelligent about the files it searches. It knows about certain file types, based on both the extension on the file and, in some cases, the contents of the file. These selections can be made with the --type option.
With no file selection, ack searches through regular files that are not explicitly excluded by --ignore-dir and --ignore-file options, either present in ackrc files or on the command line.
The default options for ack ignore certain files and directories. These include:
- Backup files: Files matching #*# or ending with ~.
- Coredumps: Files matching core.\d+
- Version control directories like .svn and .git.
Run ack with the "--dump" option to see what settings are set.
However, ack always searches the files given on the command line, no matter what type. If you tell ack to search in a coredump, it will search in a coredump.
For a complete list of directories that do not get searched, run "ack --dump".
- Specifies an ackrc file to load after all others; see "ACKRC LOCATION SEMANTICS".
- -A NUM, --after-context=NUM
- Print NUM lines of trailing context after matching lines.
- -B NUM, --before-context=NUM
- Print NUM lines of leading context before matching lines.
- Print a break between results from different files. On by default when used interactively.
- -C [NUM], --context[=NUM]
- Print NUM lines (default 2) of context around matching lines. You can specify zero lines of context to override another context specified in an ackrc.
- -c, --count
- Suppress normal output; instead print a count of matching lines for each
input file. If -l is in effect, it will only show the number of
lines for each file that has lines matching. Without -l, some line
counts may be zeroes.
If combined with -h (--no-filename) ack outputs only one total count.
- --[no]color, --[no]colour
- --color highlights the matching text. --nocolor suppresses
the color. This is on by default unless the output is redirected.
On Windows, this option is off by default unless the Win32::Console::ANSI module is installed or the "ACK_PAGER_COLOR" environment variable is used.
- Sets the color to be used for filenames.
- Sets the color to be used for matches.
- Sets the color to be used for column numbers.
- Sets the color to be used for line numbers.
- Show the column number of the first match. This is helpful for editors that can place your cursor at a given position.
- Dumps the default ack options to standard output. This is useful for when you want to customize the defaults.
- Writes the list of options loaded and where they came from to standard output. Handy for debugging.
- --noenv disables all environment processing. No .ackrc is read and all environment variables are ignored. By default, ack considers .ackrc and settings in the environment.
- --flush flushes output immediately. This is off by default unless ack is running interactively (when output goes to a pipe or file).
- Only print the files that would be searched, without actually doing any searching. PATTERN must not be specified, or it will be taken as a path to search.
- The list of files to be searched is specified in FILE. The list of
files are separated by newlines. If FILE is
"-", the list is loaded from standard
Note that the list of files is not filtered in any way. If you add "--type=html" in addition to "--files-from", the "--type" will be ignored.
- Forces ack to act as if it were receiving input via a pipe.
- Follow or don't follow symlinks, other than whatever starting files or
directories were specified on the command line.
This is off by default.
- -g PATTERN
- Print searchable files where the relative path + filename matches
ack -g foo
is exactly the same as
ack -f | ack foo
This means that just as ack will not search, for example, .jpg files, "-g" will not list .jpg files either. ack is not intended to be a general-purpose file finder.
Note also that if you have "-i" in your .ackrc that the filenames to be matched will be case-insensitive as well.
This option can be combined with --color to make it easier to spot the match.
- --group groups matches by file name. This is the default when used
--nogroup prints one result per line, like grep. This is the default when output is redirected.
- -H, --with-filename
- Print the filename for each match. This is the default unless searching a single explicitly specified file.
- -h, --no-filename
- Suppress the prefixing of filenames on output when multiple files are searched.
- Print a filename heading above each file's results. This is the default when used interactively.
- Print a short help statement.
- Print all known types.
- Print a chart of various color combinations.
- Like --help-colors but with more precise RGB colors.
- -i, --ignore-case
- Ignore case distinctions in PATTERN. Overrides --smart-case and -I.
- -I, --no-ignore-case
- Turns on case distinctions in PATTERN. Overrides --smart-case and -i.
- Tells ack to completely ignore the default definitions provided with ack. This is useful in combination with --create-ackrc if you really want to customize ack.
- --[no]ignore-dir=DIRNAME, --[no]ignore-directory=DIRNAME
- Ignore directory (as CVS, .svn, etc are ignored). May be used multiple
times to ignore multiple directories. For example, mason users may wish to
include --ignore-dir=data. The --noignore-dir option allows
users to search directories which would normally be ignored (perhaps to
research the contents of .svn/props directories).
The DIRNAME must always be a simple directory name. Nested directories like foo/bar are NOT supported. You would need to specify --ignore-dir=foo and then no files from any foo directory are taken into account by ack unless given explicitly on the command line.
- Ignore files matching FILTER:ARGS. The filters are specified identically to file type filters as seen in "Defining your own types".
- -k, --known-types
- Limit selected files to those with types that ack knows about.
- -l, --files-with-matches
- Only print the filenames of matching files, instead of the matching text.
- -L, --files-without-matches
- Only print the filenames of files that do NOT match.
- --match PATTERN
- Specify the PATTERN explicitly. This is helpful if you don't want
to put the regex as your first argument, e.g. when executing multiple
searches over the same set of files.
# search for foo and bar in given files ack file1 t/file* --match foo ack file1 t/file* --match bar
- -m=NUM, --max-count=NUM
- Print only NUM matches out of each file. If you want to stop ack after printing the first match of any kind, use the -1 options.
- Print this manual page.
- -n, --no-recurse
- No descending into subdirectories.
- Show only the part of each line matching PATTERN (turns off text highlighting). This is exactly the same as "--output=$&".
- Output the evaluation of expr for each line (turns off text
highlighting). If PATTERN matches more than once then a line is output for
each non-overlapping match.
expr may contain the strings "\n", "\r" and "\t", which will be expanded to their corresponding characters line feed, carriage return and tab, respectively.
expr may also contain the following Perl special variables:
- $1 through $9
- The subpattern from the corresponding set of capturing parentheses. If your pattern is "(.+) and (.+)", and the string is "this and that', then $1 is "this" and $2 is "that".
- The contents of the line in the file.
- The number of the line in the file.
- $&, "$`" and "$'"
- $& is the the string matched by the pattern,
"$`" is what precedes the match, and
"$'" is what follows it. If the pattern
is "gra(ph|nd)" and the string is
"lexicographic", then $& is
"graph", "$`" is
"lexico" and "$'" is
Use of these variables in your output will slow down the pattern matching.
- The match made by the last parentheses that matched in the pattern. For example, if your pattern is "Version: (.+)|Revision: (.+)", then $+ will contain whichever set of parentheses matched.
- $f is available, in
"--output" only, to insert the filename.
This is a stand-in for the discovered $filename
usage in old "ack2 --output", which is
disallowed with "ack3" improved
The intended usage is to provide the grep or compile-error syntax needed for editor/IDE go-to-line integration, e.g. "--output=$f:$.:$_" or "--output=$f\t$.\t$&"
- --pager=program, --nopager
- --pager directs ack's output through program. This can also
be specified via the "ACK_PAGER" and
"ACK_PAGER_COLOR" environment variables.
Using --pager does not suppress grouping and coloring like piping output on the command-line does.
--nopager cancels any setting in ~/.ackrc, "ACK_PAGER" or "ACK_PAGER_COLOR". No output will be sent through a pager.
- Prints all lines, whether or not they match the expression. Highlighting
will still work, though, so it can be used to highlight matches while
still seeing the entire file, as in:
# Watch a log file, and highlight a certain IP address. $ tail -f ~/access.log | ack --passthru 184.108.40.206
- Only works in conjunction with -f, -g, -l or
-c, options that only list filenames. The filenames are output
separated with a null byte instead of the usual newline. This is helpful
when dealing with filenames that contain whitespace, e.g.
# Remove all files of type HTML. ack -f --html --print0 | xargs -0 rm -f
- -p[N], --proximate[=N]
- Groups together match lines that are within N lines of each other. This is
useful for visually picking out matches that appear close to other
For example, if you got these results without the "--proximate" option,
15: First match 18: Second match 19: Third match 37: Fourth match
they would look like this with "--proximate=1"
15: First match 18: Second match 19: Third match 37: Fourth match
and this with "--proximate=3".
15: First match 18: Second match 19: Third match 37: Fourth match
If N is omitted, N is set to 1.
- Negates the effect of the --proximate option. Shortcut for --proximate=0.
- -Q, --literal
- Quote all metacharacters in PATTERN, it is treated as a literal.
- -r, -R, --recurse
- Recurse into sub-directories. This is the default and just here for compatibility with grep. You can also use it for turning --no-recurse off.
- Suppress error messages about nonexistent or unreadable files. This is taken from fgrep.
- -S, --[no]smart-case, --no-smart-case
- Ignore case in the search strings if PATTERN contains no uppercase
characters. This is similar to
"smartcase" in the vim text editor. The
options overrides -i and -I.
-S is a synonym for --smart-case.
-i always overrides this option.
- Sorts the found files lexicographically. Use this if you want your file listings to be deterministic between runs of ack.
- Outputs the filetypes that ack associates with each file.
Works with -f and -g options.
- Specify the types of files to include or exclude from a search. TYPE is a
filetype, like perl or xml. --type=perl can also be
specified as --perl, and --type=noperl can be done as
If a file is of both type "foo" and "bar", specifying --foo and --nobar will exclude the file, because an exclusion takes precedence over an inclusion.
Type specifications can be repeated and are ORed together.
See ack --help=types for a list of valid types.
- --type-add TYPE:FILTER:ARGS
- Files with the given ARGS applied to the given FILTER are recognized as being of (the existing) type TYPE. See also "Defining your own types".
- --type-set TYPE:FILTER:ARGS
- Files with the given ARGS applied to the given FILTER are recognized as being of type TYPE. This replaces an existing definition for type TYPE. See also "Defining your own types".
- --type-del TYPE
- The filters associated with TYPE are removed from Ack, and are no longer considered for searches.
- Turns on underlining of matches, where "underlining" is printing
a line of carets under the match.
$ ack -u foo peanuts.txt 17: Come kick the football you fool ^^^ ^^^ 623: Price per square foot ^^^
This is useful if you're dumping the results of an ack run into a text file or printer that doesn't support ANSI color codes.
The setting of underline does not affect highlighting of matches.
- -v, --invert-match
- Invert match: select non-matching lines.
- Display version and copyright information.
- -w, --word-regexp
- Force PATTERN to match only whole words.
- An abbreviation for --files-from=-. The list of files to search are
read from standard input, with one line per file.
Note that the list of files is not filtered in any way. If you add "--type=html" in addition to "-x", the "--type" will be ignored.
- Stops after reporting first match of any kind. This is different from --max-count=1 or -m1, where only one match per file is shown. Also, -1 works with -f and -g, where -m does not.
- Display the all-important Bill The Cat logo. Note that the exact spelling of --thpppppt is not important. It's checked against a regular expression.
- Check with the admiral for traps.
- Chocolate, Chocolate, Chocolate!
# Always sort the files --sort-files # Always color, even if piping to another program --color # Use "less -r" as my pager --pager=less -r
Note that arguments with spaces in them do not need to be quoted, as they are not interpreted by the shell. Basically, each line in the .ackrc file is interpreted as one element of @ARGV.
ack looks in several locations for .ackrc files; the searching process is detailed in "ACKRC LOCATION SEMANTICS". These files are not considered if --noenv is specified on the command line.
File types can be specified both with the the --type=xxx option, or the file type as an option itself. For example, if you create a filetype of "cobol", you can specify --type=cobol or simply --cobol. File types must be at least two characters long. This is why the C language is --cc and the R language is --rr.
ack --perl foo searches for foo in all perl files. ack --help=types tells you, that perl files are files ending in .pl, .pm, .pod or .t. So what if you would like to include .xs files as well when searching for --perl files? ack --type-add perl:ext:xs --perl foo does this for you. --type-add appends additional extensions to an existing type.
If you want to define a new type, or completely redefine an existing type, then use --type-set. ack --type-set eiffel:ext:e,eiffel defines the type eiffel to include files with the extensions .e or .eiffel. So to search for all eiffel files containing the word Bertrand use ack --type-set eiffel:ext:e,eiffel --eiffel Bertrand. As usual, you can also write --type=eiffel instead of --eiffel. Negation also works, so --noeiffel excludes all eiffel files from a search. Redefining also works: ack --type-set cc:ext:c,h and .xs files no longer belong to the type cc.
When defining your own types in the .ackrc file you have to use the following:
or writing on separate lines
The following does NOT work in the .ackrc file:
In order to see all currently defined types, use --help-types, e.g. ack --type-set backup:ext:bak --type-add perl:ext:perl --help-types
In addition to filtering based on extension, ack offers additional filter types. The generic syntax is --type-set TYPE:FILTER:ARGS; ARGS depends on the value of FILTER.
- is filters match the target filename exactly. It takes exactly one
argument, which is the name of the file to match.
- ext filters match the extension of the target file against a list
of extensions. No leading dot is needed for the extensions.
- match filters match the target filename against a regular
expression. The regular expression is made case-insensitive for the
- firstlinematch matches the first line of the target file against a
regular expression. Like match, the regular expression is made case
There are four different colors ack uses:
Aspect Option Env. variable Default -------- ----------------- ------------------ --------------- filename --color-filename ACK_COLOR_FILENAME black on_yellow match --color-match ACK_COLOR_MATCH bold green line no. --color-lineno ACK COLOR_LINENO bold yellow column no. --color-colno ACK COLOR_COLNO bold yellow
The column number column is only used if the column number is shown because of the --column option.
Colors may be specified by command-line option, such as "ack --color-filename='red on_white'", or by setting an environment variable, such as "ACK_COLOR_FILENAME='red on_white'". Options for colors can be set in your ACKRC file (See "THE .ackrc FILE").
ack can understand the following colors for the foreground:
black red green yellow blue magenta cyan white
The optional background color is specified by prepending "on_" to one of the foreground colors:
on_black on_red on_green on_yellow on_blue on_magenta on_cyan on_white
Each of the foreground colors can be modified with the following attributes, which may or may not be supported by your terminal:
bold faint italic underline blink reverse concealed
Any combinations of modifiers can be added to the foreground color. If your terminal supports it, and you enjoy visual punishment, you can specify:
ack --color-filename="blink italic underline bold red on_yellow"
For charts of the colors and what they look like, run "ack --help-colors" and "ack --help-rgb-colors".
If the eight standard colors, in their bold, faint and unmodified states, aren't enough for you to choose from, you can also specify colors by their RGB values. They are specified as "rgbXYZ" where X, Y, and Z are values between 0 and 5 giving the intensity of red, green and blue, respectively. Therefore, "rgb500" is pure red, "rgb505" is purple, and so on.
Background colors can be specified with the "on_" prefix prepended on an RGB color, so that "on_rgb505" would be a purple background.
The modifier attributes of blink, italic, underscore and so on may or may not work on the RGB colors.
For a chart of the 216 possible RGB colors, run "ack --help-rgb-colors".
- Specifies the location of the user's .ackrc file. If this file doesn't exist, ack looks in the default location.
- Color specification for the column number in ack's output. By default, the column number is not shown. You have to enable it with the --column option. See the section "ack Colors" above.
- Color specification for the filename in ack's output. See the section "ack Colors" above.
- Color specification for the line number in ack's output. See the section "ack Colors" above.
- Color specification for the matched text in ack's output. See the section "ack Colors" above.
- Specifies a pager program, such as
"most", to which ack will send its
Using "ACK_PAGER" does not suppress grouping and coloring like piping output on the command-line does, except that on Windows ack will assume that "ACK_PAGER" does not support color.
"ACK_PAGER_COLOR" overrides "ACK_PAGER" if both are specified.
- Specifies a pager program that understands ANSI color sequences. Using
"ACK_PAGER_COLOR" does not suppress
grouping and coloring like piping output on the command-line does.
If you are not on Windows, you never need to use "ACK_PAGER_COLOR".
set grepprg=ack\ -k
That example uses "-k" to search through only files of the types ack knows about, but you may use other default flags. Now you can search with ack and easily step through the results in Vim:
:grep Dumper perllib
(Shell exit code 1 is "$?=256" in perl with "system" or backticks.)
The grep code 2 for errors is not used.
If "-f" or "-g" are specified, then 0 is returned if at least one file is found. If no files are found, then 1 is returned.
- Defaults are loaded from App::Ack::ConfigDefaults. This can be omitted using "--ignore-ack-defaults".
- Global ackrc
Options are then loaded from the global ackrc. This is located at "/etc/ackrc" on Unix-like systems.
Under Windows XP and earlier, the global ackrc is at "C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Application Data\ackrc"
Under Windows Vista/7, the global ackrc is at "C:\ProgramData\ackrc"
The "--noenv" option prevents all ackrc files from being loaded.
- User ackrc
Options are then loaded from the user's ackrc. This is located at "$HOME/.ackrc" on Unix-like systems.
Under Windows XP and earlier, the user's ackrc is at "C:\Documents and Settings\$USER\Application Data\ackrc".
Under Windows Vista/7, the user's ackrc is at "C:\Users\$USER\AppData\Roaming\ackrc".
If you want to load a different user-level ackrc, it may be specified with the $ACKRC environment variable.
The "--noenv" option prevents all ackrc files from being loaded.
- Project ackrc
Options are then loaded from the project ackrc. The project ackrc is the first ackrc file with the name ".ackrc" or "_ackrc", first searching in the current directory, then the parent directory, then the grandparent directory, etc. This can be omitted using "--noenv".
The "--ackrc" option may be included on the command line to specify an ackrc file that can override all others. It is consulted even if "--noenv" is present.
- Command line
Options are then loaded from the command line.
Please report any bugs or feature requests to the issues list at Github: <https://github.com/beyondgrep/ack3/issues>.
Please include the operating system that you're using; the output of the command "ack --version"; and any customizations in your .ackrc you may have.
To suggest enhancements, please submit an issue at <https://github.com/beyondgrep/ack3/issues>. Also read the DEVELOPERS.md file in the ack code repository.
Also, feel free to discuss your issues on the ack mailing list at <https://groups.google.com/group/ack-users>.
- The ack homepage
- Source repository
- The ack issues list at Github
- The ack announcements mailing list
- The ack users' mailing list
- The ack development mailing list
Use the "-f" switch, with no regex, to see a list of files that ack will search for you. If your file doesn't show up in the list of files that "ack -f" shows, then ack never looks in it.
You can certainly use ack to select your files to update. For example, to change all "foo" to "bar" in all PHP files, you can do this from the Unix shell:
$ perl -i -p -e's/foo/bar/g' $(ack -f --php)
Submit an issue at in the GitHub issue queue at <https://github.com/beyondgrep/ack3/issues>. Explain what the file format is, where we can find out more about it, and what you have been using in your .ackrc to support it.
Please do not bother creating a pull request. The code for filetypes is trivial compared to the rest of the process we go through.
I suggest you make a symlink named ack that points to ack-grep because one of the crucial benefits of ack is having a name that's so short and simple to type.
To do that, run this with sudo or as root:
ln -s /usr/bin/ack-grep /usr/bin/ack
Alternatively, you could use a shell alias:
# bash/zsh alias ack=ack-grep # csh alias ack ack-grep
If you want to see lines near your match, use the "--A", "--B" and "--C" switches for displaying context.
Thanks to everyone who has contributed to ack in any way, including M. Scott Ford, Anders Eriksson, H.Merijn Brand, Duke Leto, Gerhard Poul, Ethan Mallove, Marek Kubica, Ray Donnelly, Nikolaj Schumacher, Ed Avis, Nick Morrott, Austin Chamberlin, Varadinsky, Sébastien Feugère, Jakub Wilk, Pete Houston, Stephen Thirlwall, Jonah Bishop, Chris Rebert, Denis Howe, Raúl Gundín, James McCoy, Daniel Perrett, Steven Lee, Jonathan Perret, Fraser Tweedale, Raál Gundán, Steffen Jaeckel, Stephan Hohe, Michael Beijen, Alexandr Ciornii, Christian Walde, Charles Lee, Joe McMahon, John Warwick, David Steinbrunner, Kara Martens, Volodymyr Medvid, Ron Savage, Konrad Borowski, Dale Sedivic, Michael McClimon, Andrew Black, Ralph Bodenner, Shaun Patterson, Ryan Olson, Shlomi Fish, Karen Etheridge, Olivier Mengue, Matthew Wild, Scott Kyle, Nick Hooey, Bo Borgerson, Mark Szymanski, Marq Schneider, Packy Anderson, JR Boyens, Dan Sully, Ryan Niebur, Kent Fredric, Mike Morearty, Ingmar Vanhassel, Eric Van Dewoestine, Sitaram Chamarty, Adam James, Richard Carlsson, Pedro Melo, AJ Schuster, Phil Jackson, Michael Schwern, Jan Dubois, Christopher J. Madsen, Matthew Wickline, David Dyck, Jason Porritt, Jjgod Jiang, Thomas Klausner, Uri Guttman, Peter Lewis, Kevin Riggle, Ori Avtalion, Torsten Blix, Nigel Metheringham, Gábor Szabó, Tod Hagan, Michael Hendricks, Ævar Arnfjörð Bjarmason, Piers Cawley, Stephen Steneker, Elias Lutfallah, Mark Leighton Fisher, Matt Diephouse, Christian Jaeger, Bill Sully, Bill Ricker, David Golden, Nilson Santos F. Jr, Elliot Shank, Merijn Broeren, Uwe Voelker, Rick Scott, Ask Bjørn Hansen, Jerry Gay, Will Coleda, Mike O'Regan, Slaven Rezić, Mark Stosberg, David Alan Pisoni, Adriano Ferreira, James Keenan, Leland Johnson, Ricardo Signes, Pete Krawczyk and Rob Hoelz.
This program is free software; you can redistribute it and/or modify it under the terms of the Artistic License v2.0.
See https://www.perlfoundation.org/artistic-license-20.html or the LICENSE.md file that comes with the ack distribution.