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Simple grep - Not sure it makes sense!


 
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# 1  
Old 10-19-2005
Simple grep - Not sure it makes sense!

I have 3 files in directory mydir named as follows, I run the sequence of commands shown below and I have questions at the result.
File names are:
ABC_GP0
ABC_GP0.ctl
ABC_GPX

Commands and results:
$ ls /mydir/ | grep *
<-- (q1) I get nothing - OK
$ ls /mydir/ | grep a*c
ABC_GP0.ctl <-- (q2) why? the case is different isn't it? where are the rest?

$ ls ls /mydir/ | grep A*C
ls not found <-- (3) why?
ABC_GP0
ABC_GP0.ctl
ABC_GPX

Thanks for your help.
# 2  
Old 10-19-2005
The shell's filename matching characters are not regular expressions. And if you don't quote stuff like * the shell will expand it into a list filenames before grep ever runs.

grep "A*C" will match:
C
AC
AAC
AAAC
AAAAC
and so on.
# 3  
Old 10-20-2005
Very well - Thanks.
# 4  
Old 10-21-2005
Quote:
Originally Posted by GNMIKE
$ ls ls /mydir/ | grep A*C
ls not found <-- (3) why?
ABC_GP0
ABC_GP0.ctl
ABC_GPX
Because you typed ls twice....
# 5  
Old 10-21-2005
Quote:
Originally Posted by GNMIKE
Commands and results:
$ ls /mydir/ | grep *
<-- (q1) I get nothing - OK
$ ls /mydir/ | grep a*c
ABC_GP0.ctl <-- (q2) why? the case is different isn't it? where are the rest?
The last example has already been explained so I'll do these two.

Unfortunately the '*' charcter is used at many levels and the first is when your shell interprets it before building the actual command line to execute. it will always do this unless you escape the * using a back slash character. (As pointed out by Perderabo)

So in your first case. What happens its your shell expands * to be all the files in your current working directory (separated by spaces). So what you are actually running is something like

ls /mydir/ | grep 'file1 file2 file3 file4'

which of course doesnt work.

In the second example the shell tries to expand the 'a*c' to match any file (again in the current directory) that starts with an 'a' and ends in a 'c'. If this succeeds then you may end up running a command like:

ls /mydir/ | grep 'access.c'

Depending on how many files match the pattern 'starts with a and ends with c' in your current directory.

If *NO* files in your current directory start with 'a' and end with 'c' then the string 'a*c' gets passed to grep. Now to grep the '*' means something slightly different. It means 'zero or more of the previously matched class'. In this case you end up greping for zero or more a's followed by one c. Hence the output you see. (Its the 'c' in ctl thats being matched, not the C in ABC).

The explanation for the 3rd example is the same but for 'A' and 'C' if you take out the extra 'ls' from the command line :-)
# 6  
Old 10-22-2005
Thanks for the explanation.
 

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