The Silver Searcher is a free and open source, cross-platform source code searching tool similar to ack (a grep-like tool for programmers) but faster. It runs on Unix-like systems and Windows operating systems.


The major difference between the silver searcher and ack is that the former is designed for speed, and benchmark tests prove that it is indeed faster.


If you spend a lot of time reading and searching through your code, then you need this tool. It aims at being fast and ignoring files that you don’t want to be searched. In this guide, we will show how to install and use The Silver Searcher in Linux.


How to Install and Use The Silver Searcher in Linux


The silver searcher package is available on most Linux distributions, you can easily install it via your package manager as shown.

$ sudo apt install silversearcher-ag					#Debian/Ubuntu 
$ sudo yum install epel-release the_silver_searcher		        #RHEL/CentOS
$ sudo dnf install silversearcher-ag					#Fedora 22+
$ sudo zypper install the_silver_searcher				#openSUSE
$ sudo pacman -S the_silver_searcher           				#Arch 


After installing it, you can run the ag command line tool with the following syntax.

$ ag file-type options PATTERN /path/to/file


To see a list of all supported file types, use the following command.

$ ag  --list-file-types


This example shows how to recursively search for all scripts that contain the word “root” under the directory ~/bin/.

$ ag root ./bin/


To print the filenames matching PATTERN and the number of matches in each file, other than the number of matching lines, use the -c switch as shown.

$ ag -c root ./bin/


To match case-sensitively, add the -s flag as shown.

$ ag -cs ROOT ./bin/
$ ag -cs root ./bin/


To print statistics of of a search operation such as files scanned, time taken, etc., use the the --stats option.

$ ag -c root --stats ./bin/


The -w flag tells ag to only match whole words similar to grep command.

$ ag -w root ./bin/


You can show column numbers in results using the --column option.

$ ag --column root ./bin/


You can also use ag to search through purely text files, using the -t witch and the -a switch is used to search all types of files. In addition, the -u switch enables searching though all files, including hidden files.

$ ag -t root /etc/
$ ag -a root /etc/
$ ag -u root /etc/


Ag also supports searching through the contents of compressed files, using the -z flag.

$ ag -z root wondershaper.gz


You can also enable following of symbolic links (symlinks in short) with the -f flag.

$ ag -tf root /etc/ 


For more information, see the silver searcher’s man page for a complete list of usage options.

$ man ag


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