Searching for files

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created October 3, 2004 · complexity intermediate · author elz · version 7.3


Vim offers several commands for searching for files by name: :find, :sfind, :tabfind on the command-line, several normal-mode commands like gf, and others. If you just enter :find filename, Vim will directly open the first file found in your 'path' matching "filename". You can provide a count like :2find filename to edit the second file on the path matching the filename, but it can be difficult to figure out what order the file you're looking for might occur in your path. Vim 7.3 makes this easier, by introducing tab-completion of filenames found by the :find command. If you set 'wildmenu', then you can see a list of all files found by the command and select which one to edit without worrying about counts or anything else.

You can also use external utilities like find on Unix-like systems to look for files. For example, if you want to populate your quickfix list with the output of a find command, you could add this to your vimrc file:

" find files and populate the quickfix list
fun! FindFiles(filename)
  let error_file = tempname()
  silent exe '!find . -name "'.a:filename.'" | xargs file | sed "s/:/:1:/" > '.error_file
  set errorformat=%f:%l:%m
  exe "cfile ". error_file
  copen
  call delete(error_file)
endfun
command! -nargs=1 FindFile call FindFiles(<q-args>)

Then, when in normal mode, use the :FindFile command to search for a filename pattern. All the file names that match this pattern (under the current directory) will be displayed in the quickfix window, along with a description of each of one of them.

Notice, the search is done in a recursive manner, and you can use wildcards. If your version of find supports it, you can do a case-insensitive search by replacing -name</name> with <code>-iname; otherwise you can specify multiple cases with a pattern like [Ff]oo[Bb]ar.txt. If you want to use a regular expression, you can call find with the -regex or -iregex flags instead (if supported).

The function uses some standard Unix-like utilities: find, file, sed.

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[edit] Comments

I use this little script. If we find an exact match (wc -l = 1), i open the file in vim. If I find more than one matches, open a list of the files. Then I can use 'gf' (gotofile) in vim to open the specific file.

#! /bin/sh
## fvim: finds files and opens them in vim
listfile=/tmp/fvim.tmp

## Find files and store them in a list
find . -iname "$1" > $listfile

findcount=`cat $listfile | wc -l`
if [ $findcount -ge 2 ] ; then
 vim $listfile
else
 vim `cat $listfile`
fi

This is what I do:

function! Find(...)
   if a:0 == 1
      let filename = a:1
      execute "args `find . -iname '*".filename."*' -print`"
   elseif a:0 == 2
      let path     = a:1
      let filename = a:2
      execute 'args `find '.path." -iname '*".filename."*' -print`"
   endif
endfunction
command! -nargs=+ Find call Find(<f-args>)

This way the files are opened in your args list and you can use :argdo

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