File-Naming Wildcards (File Globbing)

When working with files on the command line, you’ll often run into situations in which you need to perform operations on many files at once. For example, if you are developing a C program, you may want to touch all of your .c files in order to be sure to recompile them the next time you issue the make utility to build your program. There will also be times when you need to move or delete all the files in a directory or at least a selected group of files. At other times, filenames may be long or difficult to type, and you’ll want to find an abbreviated alternative to typing the filenames for each command you issue (see Table 6-5).

To make these operations simpler, all shells on Linux offer file-naming wildcards.


Wildcards are expanded by the shell, not by commands. When a command is entered with wildcards included, the shell first expands all the wildcards (and other types of expansion) and passes the full result on to the command. This process is invisible to you.

Rather than explicitly specifying every file or typing long filenames, you can use wildcard characters in place of portions of the filenames, and the shell can usually do the work for you. For example, the shell expands *.txt to a list of all the files that end in .txt. File wildcard constructs like this are called file globs, and their use is awkwardly called globbing. Using file globs to specify multiple files is certainly a convenience, and in many cases is required to get anything ...

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