Capturing output of find . -print0 into a bash array


Using find . -print0 seems to be the only safe way of obtaining a list of files in bash due to the possibility of filenames containing spaces, newlines, quotation marks etc.

However, I'm having a hard time actually making find's output useful within bash or with other command line utilities. The only way I have managed to make use of the output is by piping it to perl, and changing perl's IFS to null:

find . -print0 | perl -e '$/="\0"; @files=<>; print $#files;'

This example prints the number of files found, avoiding the danger of newlines in filenames corrupting the count, as would occur with:

find . | wc -l

As most command line programs do not support null-delimited input, I figure the best thing would be to capture the output of find . -print0 in a bash array, like I have done in the perl snippet above, and then continue with the task, whatever it may be.

How can I do this?

This doesn't work:

find . -print0 | ( IFS=$'\0' ; array=( $( cat ) ) ; echo ${#array[@]} )

A much more general question might be: How can I do useful things with lists of files in bash?

7/12/2009 9:35:51 PM

Accepted Answer

Shamelessly stolen from Greg's BashFAQ:

unset a i
while IFS= read -r -d $'\0' file; do
    a[i++]="$file"        # or however you want to process each file
done < <(find /tmp -type f -print0)

Note that the redirection construct used here (cmd1 < <(cmd2)) is similar to, but not quite the same as the more usual pipeline (cmd2 | cmd1) -- if the commands are shell builtins (e.g. while), the pipeline version executes them in subshells, and any variables they set (e.g. the array a) are lost when they exit. cmd1 < <(cmd2) only runs cmd2 in a subshell, so the array lives past its construction. Warning: this form of redirection is only available in bash, not even bash in sh-emulation mode; you must start your script with #!/bin/bash.

Also, because the file processing step (in this case, just a[i++]="$file", but you might want to do something fancier directly in the loop) has its input redirected, it cannot use any commands that might read from stdin. To avoid this limitation, I tend to use:

unset a i
while IFS= read -r -u3 -d $'\0' file; do
    a[i++]="$file"        # or however you want to process each file
done 3< <(find /tmp -type f -print0)

...which passes the file list via unit 3, rather than stdin.

7/13/2009 5:36:50 PM

Maybe you are looking for xargs:

find . -print0 | xargs -r0 do_something_useful

The option -L 1 could be useful for you too, which makes xargs exec do_something_useful with only 1 file argument.

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