How To: Find Multiple Filenames By Extension

Today’s article will show you how to find multiple filenames by extension, using the find command in the terminal. It’s a pretty handy skill to have for when you need to know where files of a certain extension reside on your file system.

If you got a new article notification yesterday, that’s because I’m an idiot. Instead of hitting the schedule button, I hit the publish button. I’m not sure what I was thinking. It was fairly early in the afternoon and I wasn’t even sipping wine at the time! Sorry for disturbing you unnecessarily. I almost sent out an ‘oops’ newsletter, but then I’d have just disturbed you twice.

Anyhow, this will be another article that makes use of the find command. The find command is a rather robust command and can be somewhat daunting for new people. I feel more comfortable writing articles that let you learn it in chunks, rather than trying to cover the entire thing. I do find it hard to explain, but I’ll do my best.

What’s this useful for? Well, let’s say you want to find .deb, .zip, and .iso files in you ~/Downloads directory. That’s what this command is going to do for you. You can find multiple filenames by extension in the terminal and it’s not overly complex once you understand the basics of the command.

Instead of making the intro needlessly longer, and to make up for today’s scheduling gaff, I’ll keep the intro short and we’ll just run straight into the article…

Find Multiple Filenames By Extension:

In the intro, I mentioned that this was going to be done in the terminal. As such, we’re obviously going to need an open terminal for this exercise. To do so, press CTRL + ALT + T and your default terminal should open. Tada!

Warning: I do not explain this one as well as I’d hoped. So, I tried to explain by way of demonstrating. I’m hopeful that works.

Now, here’s the command I just ran in my terminal:

Now, if you want to run it in the current directory, you can specify the directory or you can change ~/Downloads to a . (period).

If you want to find just one file, you’d stop after "*.deb" and leave the closing \).  If you want to add additional files, you would include -o -name "*.<extension>" and make sure to keep the closing ).

It might be easier to show you. For formatting reasons, I’ll use the . (period) instead of specifying a directory. It’ll fit on your screen better than a longer command. So, “How To:”…

Find One File By Extension:
Find Two Files By Extension:
Find Three Files By Extension:

So, hopefully you can see how this find command works. I can’t think of a better way to explain the command than to show it to you in examples. I hope that works for people. Feel free to comment in either direction, as I think it might work for some but be less effective for others.

In theory, you could find all sorts of files by extension, just remember to include the -o -name and file type and noting that the asterisk is a wildcard in this instance, meaning all files with that extension will be found. So, .gz files would be "*.gz". You can make the command as long as your heart desires!

Well, no… There’s bound to be an upper limit somewhere. (Wait, I looked it up, the maximum number of characters in the terminal is 4096 characters. And now we know…)

EDIT: You have no idea how much of a pain in the butt this article turned out to be. Holy crap. For safety reasons, WordPress eats the backslash \. I did not know this. Nobody knows this. The solution is to escape the backslash by using it twice. This article is full of backslashes. I think I got them all. It eats them every time I save the draft, so hopefully they show up in publication. I can never edit this article again, so it is what it is. Well, I could edit it again, but it’d be a pain in the butt.


So, yeah… Today we’ve learned to find multiple filenames by extension. At least I hope we have. It’s not so easy to explain, but I figured if I explained it by showing examples then you’d be able to pick it up in context. If you do have any questions, just drop ’em into the comment box below and I’m usually pretty speedy at getting back to people. As always, the man page is probably helpful.

Again, sorry about the fake article notification. That doesn’t happen often, but it does sometimes happen. In an ideal world, I’d have an awesome editor and I would just save everything as a draft. If you’re interested in volunteering for that role, let me know! It’d make my life so much easier, I think… I mean, I don’t really know… It just seems like something that’d help.

Also, I’m pretty excited to write this month’s meta article. I’ll probably wait and schedule it for the holiday or a weekend day. They’re not important articles, but I find it interesting. The site’s growing steadily.

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Author: KGIII

Retired mathematician, residing in the mountains of Maine. I may be old and wise, but I am not infallible. Please point out any errors. And, as always, thanks again for reading.

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