Skimming subfolders for files to copy

Basic tip today, this time for sifting through a directory tree and plucking out files that match a certain filter.

I needed to move some of the office photo collection off CD and USB into a different location to sort them manually. A lot of international characters and intermingled, unwanted files were complicating things.

I’m sure there are lots of ways to do this, but this is what I did.

find /media/ -iname "*jpg" -exec cp '{}' /home/kmandla/hold/ \;

Obviously you can change that to move the files, or anything else you like.

The regular cp command — or as I was trying to use it, cp -Rv /media/*jpg /home/kmandla/hold — wasn’t working with me, and my variations on that line were likewise failures.

find did the job right the first time. And was quicker than pointing and clicking, that’s for sure.

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7 Responses to “Skimming subfolders for files to copy”


  1. 1 wolfo 2011/03/21 at 9:39 PM

    My approach would have been just ‘cp -Rv /media/**/*jpg /destination’.
    /media/*jpg only substitutes files that are directly inside /media. I use zsh, but it worked with bash too.

    On the other note, I should try to learn more about ‘find’. So far, it rarely behaved the way I anticipated =)

  2. 2 Cosay Nold 2011/03/21 at 10:55 PM

    For some reason, I have never found the Find command particularly easy to learn, and I’ve used the GNU and BSD versions of the command. It’s probably because I need the command so infrequently.

  3. 3 IsaacG 2011/03/21 at 11:16 PM

    For the ** to work in bash, you first need: shopt -s globstar

  4. 4 Jose Catre-Vandis 2011/03/21 at 11:49 PM

    I use a similar command:

    find /pathtoinputdir/ -name “*.*” -type f -exec cp -urvp ‘{}’ /pathtooutputdir \;

    • 5 IsaacG 2011/03/22 at 12:02 AM

      Two more comments on the find syntax:
      – The {} don’t need quoting
      – With GNU find you can replace the \; with + to pass many filenames to one cp command opposed to fork()ing a cp for each file

    • 6 Gabe 2011/03/23 at 3:35 AM

      Also “*.*” is unnecessary (reminds me of DOS syntax), “*” will do.

      • 7 Kevin 2011/03/23 at 6:51 AM

        Actually, “*.*” and “*” are different. “*.*” only matches files with a dot in the name. And, if you are going to do -name “*”, you may as well leave the -name predicate out all together:

        find /pathtoinputdir -type f -exec cp -urvp {} \;


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