greple - extensible grep with lexical expression and region control


Version 9.08


greple [-Mmodule] [ -options ] pattern [ file… ]

  pattern              'and +must -not ?optional &function'
  -x, --le   pattern   lexical expression (same as bare pattern)
  -e, --and  pattern   pattern match across line boundary
  -r, --must pattern   pattern cannot be compromised
  -t, --may  pattern   pattern may be exist
  -v, --not  pattern   pattern not to be matched
  -E, --re   pattern   regular expression
      --fe   pattern   fixed expression
  -f, --file file      file contains search pattern
  --select index       select indexed pattern from -f file
  -i, --ignore-case    ignore case
  -G, --capture-group  match capture groups rather than whole pattern
  --need=[+-]n         required positive match count
  --allow=[+-]n        acceptable negative match count
  --matchcount=n[,m]   required match count for each block
  -l                   list filename only
  -c                   print count of matched block only
  -n                   print line number
  -H, -h               do or do not display filenames
  -o                   print only the matching part
  --all                print entire data
  -m, --max=n[,m]      max count of blocks to be shown
  -A,-B,-C [n]         after/before/both match context
  --join               delete newline in the matched part
  --joinby=string      replace newline in the matched text by string
  --nonewline          do not add newline character at block end
  --filestyle=style    how filename printed (once, separate, line)
  --linestyle=style    how line number printed (separate, line)
  --separate           set filestyle and linestyle both "separate"
  --format LABEL=...   define line number and file name format
  --frame-top          top frame
  --frame-middle       middle frame
  --frame-bottom       bottom frame
  --glob=glob          glob target files
  --chdir=dir          change directory before search
  --readlist           get filenames from stdin
  --color=when         use terminal color (auto, always, never)
  --nocolor            same as --color=never
  --colormap=color     R, G, B, C, M, Y etc.
  --colorsub=...       shortcut for --colormap="sub{...}"
  --colorful           use default multiple colors
  --colorindex=flags   color index method: Ascend/Descend/Block/Random
  --ansicolor=s        ANSI color 16, 256 or 24bit
  --[no]256            same as --ansicolor 256 or 16
  --regioncolor        use different color for inside/outside regions
  --uniqcolor          use different color for unique string
  --uniqsub=func       preprocess function before check uniqueness
  --random             use random color each time
  --face               set/unset visual effects
  -p, --paragraph      paragraph mode
  --border=pattern     border pattern
  --block=pattern      block of records
  --blockend=s         block end mark (Default: "--")
  --join-blocks        join back-to-back consecutive blocks
  --inside=pattern     select matches inside of pattern
  --outside=pattern    select matches outside of pattern
  --include=pattern    reduce matches to the area
  --exclude=pattern    reduce matches to outside of the area
  --strict             strict mode for --inside/outside --block
  --icode=name         file encoding
  --ocode=name         output encoding
  --if,--of=filter     input/output filter command
  --pf=filter          post process filter command
  --noif               disable default input filter
  --begin=func         call function before search
  --end=func           call function after search
  --prologue=func      call function before command execution
  --epilogue=func      call function after command execution
  --postgrep=func      call function after each grep operation
  --callback=func      callback function for matched string
  --usage[=expand]     show this message
  --exit=n             command exit status
  --norc               skip reading startup file
  --man                display command or module manual page
  --show               display module file
  --path               show module file path
  --persist            same as --error=retry
  --error=action       action after read error
  --warn=type          run time error control
  --alert [name=#]     set alert parameter (size/time)
  -d flags             display info (f:file d:dir c:color m:misc s:stat)



$ cpanm App::Greple




greple can take multiple search patterns with the -e option, but unlike the egrep(1) command, it will search them in AND context. For example, the next command print lines those containing all of foo and bar and baz.

greple -e foo -e bar -e baz ...

Each word can appear in any order and any place in the string. So this command find all of following lines.

foo bar baz
baz bar foo
the foo, bar and baz

If you want to use OR syntax, use regular expression.

greple -e foo -e bar -e baz -e 'yabba|dabba|doo'

This command will print lines those contains all of foo, bar and baz and one or more of yabba, dabba or doo.


Use option -v to specify keyword which should not found in the data record. Next example will show lines those contain both foo and bar but none of yabba, dabba or doo.

greple -e foo -e bar -v yabba -v dabba -v doo
greple -e foo -e bar -v 'yabba|dabba|doo'


When you are focusing on multiple words, there may be words those are not necessary but would be of interest if there were.

Use option --may or -t (tentative) to specify that kind of words. They will be a subject of search, and highlighted if exist, but are optional.

Next command print all lines including foo and bar, and highlight baz as well.

greple -e foo -e bar -t baz


Option --must or -r is another way to specify optional keyword. If required keyword exists, all other positive match keyword becomes optional. Next command is equivalent to the above example.

greple -r foo -r bar -e baz


greple takes the first argument as a search pattern specified by --le option. In the --le pattern, you can set multiple keywords in a single parameter. Each keyword is separated by spaces, and the first letter describes its type.

none  And pattern            : --and  -e
+     Required pattern       : --must -r
-     Negative match pattern : --not  -v
?     Optional pattern       : --may  -t

Just like internet search engines, you can simply provide foo bar baz to search lines including all of them.

greple 'foo bar baz'

Next command show lines which include foo, but does not include bar, and highlight baz if exists.

greple 'foo -bar ?baz'

greple searches a given pattern across line boundaries. This is especially useful to handle Asian multi-byte text, more specifically Japanese. Japanese text can be separated by newline almost any place in the text. So the search pattern may spread out onto multiple lines.

As for the ASCII word list, the space character in the pattern matches any type of space, including newlines. The next example will search for the word sequence of foo, bar and baz, even if they are spread over lines.

greple -e 'foo bar baz'

Option -e is necessary because space is taken as a token separator in the bare or --le pattern.


Default data block greple search and print is a line. Using --paragraph (or -p in short) option, series of text separated by empty line is taken as a record block. So next command will print whole paragraph which contains the word foo, bar and baz.

greple -p 'foo bar baz'

Block also can be defined by pattern. Next command treat the data as a series of 10-line unit.

greple -n --border='(.*\n){1,10}'

You can also define arbitrary complex blocks by writing script.

greple --block '&your_original_function' ...


Using option --inside and --outside, you can specify the text area to be matched. Next commands search only in mail header and body area respectively. In these cases, data block is not changed, so print lines which contains the pattern in the specified area.

greple --inside '\A(.+\n)+' pattern

greple --outside '\A(.+\n)+' pattern

Option --inside/--outside can be used repeatedly to enhance the area to be matched. There are similar option --include/--exclude, but they are used to trim down the area.

These four options also take user defined function and any complex region can be used.


User can define default and original options in ~/.greplerc. Next example enables colored output always, and define new option using macro processing.

option default --color=always

define :re1 complex-regex-1
define :re2 complex-regex-2
define :re3 complex-regex-3
option --newopt --inside :re1 --exclude :re2 --re :re3

Specific set of function and option interface can be implemented as module. Modules are invoked by -M option immediately after command name.

For example, greple does not have recursive search option, but it can be implemented by --readlist option which accept target file list from standard input. Using find module, it can be written like this:

greple -Mfind . -type f -- pattern

Also dig module implements more complex search. It can be used as simple as this:

greple -Mdig pattern --dig .

but this command is finally translated into following option list.

greple -Mfind . ( -name .git -o -name .svn -o -name RCS ) -prune -o
    -type f ! -name .* ! -name *,v ! -name *~
    ! -iname *.jpg ! -iname *.jpeg ! -iname *.gif ! -iname *.png
    ! -iname *.tar ! -iname *.tbz  ! -iname *.tgz ! -iname *.pdf
    -print -- pattern


This release include some sample modules. Read document in each modules for detail. You can read the document by --man option or perldoc command.

greple -Mdig --man

perldoc App::Greple::dig

When it does not work, use perldoc App::Greple::dig.

Other modules are available at CPAN, or git repository



If no specific option is given, greple takes the first argument as a search pattern specified by --le option. All of these patterns can be specified multiple times.

Command itself is written in Perl, and any kind of Perl style regular expression can be used in patterns. See perlre(1) for detail.

Note that multiple line modifier (m) is set when executed, so put (?-m) at the beginning of regex if you want to explicitly disable it.

Order of capture group in the pattern is not guaranteed. Please avoid to use direct index, and use relative or named capture group instead. For example, if you want to search repeated characters, use (\w)\g{-1} or (?<c>\w)\g{c} rather than (\w)\1.

  • -e pattern, –and=pattern

    Specify the positive match pattern. Next command print lines contains all of foo, bar and baz.

      greple -e foo -e bar -e baz
  • -t pattern, –may=pattern

    Specify the optional (tentative) match pattern. Next command print lines contains foo and bar, and highlight baz if exists.

      greple -e foo -e bar -t baz
  • -r pattern, –must=pattern

    Specify the required match pattern. If one or more required pattern exist, other positive match pattern becomes optional.

      greple -r foo -r bar -e baz

    Because -t promote all other -e patterns required, next command do the same thing. Mixing -r, -e and -t is not recommended, though.

      greple -r foo -e bar -t baz
  • -v pattern, –not=pattern

    Specify the negative match pattern. Because it does not affect to the bare pattern argument, you can narrow down the search result like this.

      greple foo file
      greple foo file -v bar
      greple foo file -v bar -v baz

In the above pattern options, space characters are treated specially. They are replaced by the pattern which matches any number of white spaces including newline. So the pattern can expand to multiple lines. Next commands search the series of word foo bar baz even if they are separated by newlines.

greple -e 'foo bar baz'

This is done by converting pattern foo bar baz to foo\s+bar\+baz, so that word separator can match one or more white spaces.

As for Asian wide characters, pattern is cooked as zero or more white spaces can be allowed between any characters. So Japanese string pattern 日本語 will be converted to 日\s*本\s*語.

If you don’t want these conversion, use --re option.

  • -x pattern, –le=pattern

    Treat the pattern string as a collection of tokens separated by spaces. Each token is interpreted by the first character. Token start with - means negative pattern, ? means optional, and + does required.

    The next example prints lines which containing foo and yabba, and none of bar and dabba, with highlighting baz and doo if they exist.

      greple --le='foo -bar ?baz yabba -dabba ?doo'

    This is the summary of start character for --le option:

      +  Required pattern
      -  Negative match pattern
      ?  Optional pattern
      &  Function call (see next section)
  • -x [+?-]&function, –le=[+?-]&function

    If the pattern start with ampersand (&), it is treated as a function, and the function is called instead of searching pattern. Function call interface is same as the one for block/region options.

    If you have a definition of odd_line function in you .greplerc, which is described in this manual later, you can print odd number lines like this:

      greple -n '&odd_line' file

    Required (+), optional (?) and negative (-) mark can be used for function pattern.

    CALLBACK FUNCTION: Region list returned by function can have two extra elements besides start/end position. Third element is index. Fourth element is a callback function pointer which will be called to produce string to be shown in command output. Callback function is called with four arguments (start position, end position, index, matched string) and expected to return replacement string.

  • -E pattern, –re=pattern

    Specify regular expression. No special treatment for space and wide characters.

  • –fe=pattern

    Specify the fixed string pattern, like fgrep(1).

  • -i, –ignore-case

    Ignore case.

  • -G, –capture-group

    Normally, greple searches for strings that match the entire pattern. Even if it contains a capturing groups, they do not affect the search target. When this option is given, strings corresponding to individual capture groups are searched, not the entire pattern. If the pattern does not contain any capturing groups, it matches the entire pattern.

    For each match, a corresponding capture group number is assigned as an index (0 for entire match). This will cause the strings corresponding to each capture group to be displayed in a different color.

  • –need=n
  • –allow=n

    Option to compromise matching condition. Option --need specifies the required match count, and --allow the number of negative condition to be overlooked.

      greple --need=2 --allow=1 'foo bar baz -yabba -dabba -doo'

    Above command prints the line which contains two or more from foo, bar and baz, and does not include more than one of yabba, dabba or doo.

    Using option --need=1, greple produces same result as grep command.

      grep   -e foo -e bar -e baz
      greple -e foo -e bar -e baz --need=1

    When the count n is negative value, it is subtracted from default value.

    If the option --need=0 is specified and no pattern was found, entire data is printed. This is true even for required pattern.

  • –matchcount=count –mc=…
  • –matchcount=min,max –mc=…

    When option --matchcount is specified, only blocks which have given match count will be shown. Minimum and maximum number can be given, connecting by comma, and they can be omitted. Next commands print lines including semicolons; 3 or more, exactly 3, and 3 or less, respectively.

      greple --matchcount=3, ';' file
      greple --matchcount=3  ';' file
      greple --matchcount=,3 ';' file

    In fact, min and max can repeat to represent multiple range. Missing, negative or zero max means infinite. Next command find match count 0 to 10, 20 to 30, and 40-or-greater.

      greple --matchcount=,10,20,30,40
  • -f file, –file=file

    Specifies the file containing the search pattern. If there are multiple lines in the file, each pattern is combined by an OR context. So the file:


    makes the pattern as A|B|C.

    Blank line and the line starting with sharp (#) character is ignored. Two slashes (//) and following string are taken as a comment and removed with preceding spaces.

    In more detail, each of these patterns are evaluated under (?^m) flags. This is a situation where only the m (Multiline) flag is enabled in the default environment. So if you enable some flags in a pattern, they are only valid within itself.

    If multiple files are specified, a separate group pattern is generated for each file.

    If the file name is followed by [index] string, it is treated as specified by --select option. Next two commands are equivalent.

      greple -f pattern_file'[2,7:9]'
      greple -f pattern_file --select 2,7:9

    See App::Greple::subst module.

  • –select=index

    When you want to choose specific line in the pattern file provided by -f option, use --select option. index is number list separated by comma (,) character and each number is interpreted by Getopt::EX::Numbers module. Take a look at the module document for detail.

    Next command use 2nd and 7,8,9th lines in the pattern file.

      greple -f pattern_file --select 2,7:9


  • -l

    List filename only.

  • -c, –count

    Print count of matched block.

  • -n, –line-number

    Show line number.

  • -h, –no-filename

    Do not display filename.

  • -H

    Display filename always.

  • -o, –only-matching

    Print matched string only. Newline character is printed after matched string if it does not end with newline. Use --no-newline option if you don’t need extra newline.

  • –all

    Print entire file. This option does not affect to seach behavior or block treatment. Just print all contents.

  • -m n[,m], –max-count=n[,m]

    Set the maximum count of blocks to be shown to n.

    Actually n and m are simply passed to perl splice function as offset and length. Works like this:

      greple -m  10      # get first 10 blocks
      greple -m   0,-10  # get last 10 blocks
      greple -m   0,10   # remove first 10 blocks
      greple -m -10      # remove last 10 blocks
      greple -m  10,10   # remove 10 blocks from 10th (10-19)

    This option does not affect to search performance and command exit status.

    Note that grep command also has same option, but it’s behavior is different when invoked to multiple files. greple produces given number of output for each file, while grep takes it as a total number of output.

  • -m *, –max-count=*

    In fact, n and m can repeat as many as possible. Next example removes first 10 blocks (by 0,10), then get first 10 blocks from the result (by 10). Consequently, get 10 blocks from 10th (10-19).

      greple -m 0,10,10

    Next command get first 20 (by 20,) and get last 10 (by ,-10), producing same result. Empty string behaves like absence for length and zero for offset.

      greple -m 20,,,-10
  • -A[n], –after-context[=n]
  • -B[n], –before-context[=n]
  • -C[n], –context[=n]

    Print n-blocks before/after matched string. The value n can be omitted and the default is 2. When used with --paragraph or --block option, n means number of paragraph or block.

    Actually, these options expand the area of logical operation. It means

      greple -C1 'foo bar baz'

    matches following text.



      greple -C1 'foo baz'

    also matches this text, because matching blocks around foo and bar overlaps each other and makes single block.

  • –join
  • –joinby=string

    Convert newline character found in matched string to empty or specified string. Using --join with -o (only-matching) option, you can collect searching sentence list in one per line form. This is sometimes useful for Japanese text processing. For example, next command prints the list of KATAKANA words, including those spread across multiple lines.

      greple -ho --join '\p{InKatakana}+(\n\p{InKatakana}+)*'

    Space separated word sequence can be processed with --joinby option. Next example prints all for *something* pattern in pod documents within Perl script.

      greple -Mperl --pod -ioe '\bfor \w+' --joinby ' '
  • –[no]newline

    Since greple can handle arbitrary blocks other than normal text lines, they sometimes do not end with newline character. Option -o makes similar situation. In that case, extra newline is appended at the end of block to be shown. Option --no-newline disables this behavior.

  • –filestyle=[line,once,separate], –fs

    Default style is line, and greple prints filename at the beginning of each line. Style once prints the filename only once at the first time. Style separate prints filename in the separate line before each line or block.

  • –linestyle=[line,separate], –ls

    Default style is line, and greple prints line numbers at the beginning of each line. Style separate prints line number in the separate line before each line or block.

  • –separate

    Shortcut for --filestyle=separate --linestyle=separate. This is convenient to use block mode search and visiting each location from supporting tool, such as Emacs.

  • –format LABEL=format

    Define the format string of line number (LINE) and file name (FILE) to be displayed. Default is:

      --format LINE='%d:'
      --format FILE='%s:'

    Format string is passed to sprintf function. Tab character can be expressed as \t.

    Next example will show line numbers in five digits with tab space:

      --format LINE='%05d\t'
  • –frame-top=string
  • –frame-middle=string
  • –frame-bottom=string

    Print surrounding frames before and after each block. top frame is printed at the beginning, bottom frame at the end, middle frame between blocks.


  • –glob=pattern

    Get files matches to specified pattern and use them as a target files. Using --chdir and --glob makes easy to use greple for fixed common job.

  • –chdir=directory

    Change directory before processing files. When multiple directories are specified in --chdir option, by using wildcard form or repeating option, --glob file expansion will be done for every directories.

      greple --chdir '/usr/man/man?' --glob '*.[0-9]' ...
  • –readlist

    Get filenames from standard input. Read standard input and use each line as a filename for searching. You can feed the output from other command like find(1) for greple with this option. Next example searches string from files modified within 7 days:

      find . -mtime -7 -print | greple --readlist pattern

    Using find module, this can be done like:

      greple -Mfind . -mtime -7 -- pattern


  • –color=[auto,always,never], –nocolor

    Use terminal color capability to emphasize the matched text. Default is auto: effective when STDOUT is a terminal and option -o is not given, not otherwise. Option value always and never will work as expected.

    Option –nocolor is alias for –color=never.

    When color output is disabled, ANSI terminal sequence is not produced, but functional colormap, such as --cm sub{...}, still works.

  • –colormap=spec, –cm=…

    Specify color map. Because this option is mostly implemented by Getopt::EX::Colormap module, consult its document for detail and up-to-date specification.

    Color specification is combination of single uppercase character representing basic colors, and (usually brighter) alternative colors in lowercase:

      R  r   Red
      G  g   Green
      B  b   Blue
      C  c   Cyan
      M  m   Magenta
      Y  y   Yellow
      K  k   Black
      W  w   White

    or RGB value and 24 grey levels if using ANSI 256 color terminal:

      (255,255,255)      : 24bit decimal RGB colors
      #000000 .. #FFFFFF : 24bit hex RGB colors
      #000    .. #FFF    : 12bit hex RGB 4096 colors
      000 .. 555         : 6x6x6 RGB 216 colors
      L00 .. L25         : Black (L00), 24 grey levels, White (L25)
    Beginning # can be omitted in 24bit RGB notation.
    When values are all same in 24bit or 12bit RGB, it is converted to 24
    grey level, otherwise 6x6x6 216 color.

    or color names enclosed by angle bracket:

      <red> <blue> <green> <cyan> <magenta> <yellow>
      <aliceblue> <honeydue> <hotpink> <mooccasin>

    with other special effects:

      N    None
      Z  0 Zero (reset)
      D  1 Double strike (boldface)
      P  2 Pale (dark)
      I  3 Italic
      U  4 Underline
      F  5 Flash (blink: slow)
      Q  6 Quick (blink: rapid)
      S  7 Stand out (reverse video)
      H  8 Hide (concealed)
      X  9 Cross out
      E    Erase Line
      ;    No effect
      /    Toggle foreground/background
      ^    Reset to foreground

    If the spec includes /, left side is considered as foreground color and right side as background. If multiple colors are given in same spec, all indicators are produced in the order of their presence. As a result, the last one takes effect.

    Effect characters are case insensitive, and can be found anywhere and in any order in color spec string. Character ; does nothing and can be used just for readability, like SD;K/544.


      RGB  6x6x6    12bit      24bit           color name
      ===  =======  =========  =============  ==================
      B    005      #00F       (0,0,255)      <blue>
       /M     /505      /#F0F   /(255,0,255)  /<magenta>
      K/W  000/555  #000/#FFF  000000/FFFFFF  <black>/<white>
      R/G  500/050  #F00/#0F0  FF0000/00FF00  <red>/<green>
      W/w  L03/L20  #333/#ccc  303030/c6c6c6  <dimgrey>/<lightgrey>

    Multiple colors can be specified separating by white space or comma, or by repeating options. Those colors will be applied for each pattern keywords. Next command will show word foo in red, bar in green and baz in blue.

      greple --colormap='R G B' 'foo bar baz'
      greple --cm R -e foo --cm G -e bar --cm B -e baz

    Coloring capability is implemented in Getopt::EX::Colormap module.

  • –colormap=field=spec,…

    Another form of colormap option to specify the color for fields:

      FILE      File name
      LINE      Line number
      TEXT      Unmatched normal text
      BLOCKEND  Block end mark
      PROGRESS  Progress status with -dnf option

    In current release, BLOCKEND mark is colored with E effect recently implemented in Getopt::EX module, which allows to fill up the line with background color. This effect uses irregular escape sequence, and you may need to define LESSANSIENDCHARS environment as “mK” to see the result with less command.

  • –colormap=&func
  • –colormap=sub{...}

    You can also set the name of perl subroutine name or definition to be called handling matched words. Target word is passed as variable $_, and the return value of the subroutine will be displayed.

    Next command convert all words in C comment to upper case.

      greple --all '/\*(?s:.*?)\*/' --cm 'sub{uc}'

    You can quote matched string instead of coloring (this emulates deprecated option --quote):

      greple --cm 'sub{"<".$_.">"}' ...

    It is possible to use this definition with field names. Next example print line numbers in seven digits.

      greple -n --cm 'LINE=sub{s/(\d+)/sprintf("%07d",$1)/e;$_}'

    Experimentally, function can be combined with other normal color specifications. Also the form &func; can be repeated.

      greple --cm 'BF/544;sub{uc}'
      greple --cm 'R;&func1;&func2;&func3'

    When color for ‘TEXT’ field is specified, whole text including matched part is passed to the function, exceptionally. It is not recommended to use user defined function for ‘TEXT’ field.

  • –colorsub=..., –cs=...

    --colorsub or --cs is a shortcut for subroutine colormap. It simply enclose the argument by sub{ ... } expression. So

      greple -cm 'sub{uc}'

    can be written as simple as this.

      greple -cs uc

    You can not use this option for labeled color.

  • –[no]colorful

    Shortcut for --colormap=’RD GD BD CD MD YD’ in ANSI 16 colors mode, and --colormap=’D/544 D/454 D/445 D/455 D/454 D/554’ and other combination of 3, 4, 5 for 256 colors mode. Enabled by default.

    When single pattern is specified, first color in colormap is used for the pattern. If multiple patterns and multiple colors are specified, each pattern is colored with corresponding color cyclically.

    Option --regioncolor, --uniqcolor and --colorindex change this behavior.

  • –colorindex=spec, –ci=spec

    Specify color index method by combination of spec characters. A (ascend) and D (descend) can be mixed with B (block) and/or S (shuffle) like --ci=ABS. R (random) can be too but it does not make sense. When S is used alone, colormap is shuffled with normal behavior.

    • A (Ascending)

      Apply different color sequentially according to the order of appearance.

    • D (Descending)

      Apply different color sequentially according to the reverse order of appearance.

    • B (Block)

      Reset sequential index on every block.

    • S (Shuffle)

      Shuffle indexed color.

    • R (Random)

      Use random color index every time.

    • N (Normal)

      Reset to normal behavior. Because the last option takes effect, --ci=N can be used to reset the behavior set by previous options.

  • –random

    Shortcut for --colorindex=R.

  • –ansicolor=[16,256,24bit]

    If set as 16, use ANSI 16 colors as a default color set, otherwise ANSI 256 colors. When set as 24bit, 6 hex digits notation produces 24bit color sequence. Default is 256.

  • –[no]256

    Shortcut for --ansicolor=256 or 16.

  • –[no]regioncolor, –[no]rc

    Use different colors for each --inside and --outside region.

    Disabled by default, but automatically enabled when only single search pattern is specified. Use --no-regioncolor to cancel automatic action.

  • –[no]uniqcolor, –[no]uc

    Use different colors for different string matched. Disabled by default.

    Next example prints all words start by color and display them all in different colors.

      greple --uniqcolor 'colou?r\w*'

    When used with option -i, color is selected still in case-sensitive fashion. If you want case-insensitive color selection, use next --uniqsub option.

  • –uniqsub=function, –us=function

    Above option --uniqcolor set same color for same literal string. Option --uniqsub specify the preprocessor code applied before comparison. function get matched string by $_ and returns the result. For example, next command will choose unique colors for each word by their length.

      greple --uniqcolor --uniqsub 'sub{length}' '\w+' file

    If you want case-insensitive color selection, do like this.

      greple -i pattern --uc --uniqsub 'sub{lc}'

    Next command read the output from git blame command and set unique color for each entire line by their commit ids.

      git blame ... | greple .+ --uc --us='sub{s/\s.*//r}' --face=E-D
  • –face=[-+]effect

    Set or unset specified effect for all indexed color specs. Use + (optional) to set, and - to unset. Effect is a single character expressing S (Stand-out), U (Underline), D (Double-struck), F (Flash) and such.

    Next example remove D (double-struck) effect.

      greple --face -D

    Multiple effects can be set/unset at once.

      greple --face SF-D


  • -p, –paragraph

    Print a paragraph which contains the pattern. Each paragraph is delimited by two or more successive newlines by default. Be aware that an empty line is not a paragraph delimiter if which contains space characters. Example:

      greple -np 'setuid script' /usr/man/catl/perl.l
      greple -pe '^struct sockaddr' /usr/include/sys/socket.h

    It changes the unit of context specified by -A, -B, -C options. Space gap between paragraphs are also treated as a block unit. Thus, option -pC2 will print target paragraph along with previous and next paragraph. Option -pC1 causes consecutive paragraphs to be output as the same block in an easy-to-read format.

    You can create original paragraph pattern by --border option.

  • –border=pattern

    Specify record block border pattern. Pattern match is done in the context of multiple line mode.

    Default block is a single line and use /^/m as a pattern. Paragraph mode uses /(?:\A|\R)\K\R+/, which means continuous newlines at the beginning of text or following another newline (\R means more general linebreaks including \r\n; consult perlrebackslash for detail).

    Next command treat the data as a series of 10-line unit.

      greple -n --border='(.*\n){1,10}'

    Contrary to the next --block option, --border never produce disjoint records.

    If you want to treat entire file as a single block, setting border to start or end of whole data is efficient way. Next commands works same.

      greple --border '\A'    # beginning of file
      greple --border '\z'    # end of file
  • –block=pattern
  • –block=&sub

    Specify the record block to display. Default block is a single line.

    Empty blocks are ignored. When blocks are not continuous, the match occurred outside blocks are ignored.

    If multiple block options are given, overlapping blocks are merged into a single block.

    Please be aware that this option is sometimes quite time consuming, because it finds all blocks before processing.

  • –blockend=string

    Change the end mark displayed after -pABC or --block options. Default value is “–”.

  • –join-blocks

    Join consecutive blocks together. Logical operation is done for each individual blocks, but if the results are back-to-back connected, make them single block for final output.


  • –inside=pattern
  • –outside=pattern

    Option --inside and --outside limit the text area to be matched. For simple example, if you want to find string and not in the word command, it can be done like this.

      greple --outside=command and

    The block can be larger and expand to multiple lines. Next command searches from C source, excluding comment part.

      greple --outside '(?s)/\*.*?\*/'

    Next command searches only from POD part of the perl script.

      greple --inside='(?s)^=.*?(^=cut|\Z)'

    When multiple inside and outside regions are specified, those regions are mixed up in union way.

    In multiple color environment, and if single keyword is specified, matches in each --inside/--outside region is printed in different color. Forcing this operation with multiple keywords, use --regioncolor option.

  • –inside=&function
  • –outside=&function

    If the pattern name begins by ampersand (&) character, it is treated as a name of subroutine which returns a list of blocks. Using this option, user can use arbitrary function to determine from what part of the text they want to search. User defined function can be defined in .greplerc file or by module option.

  • –include=pattern
  • –exclude=pattern
  • –include=&function
  • –exclude=&function

    --include/--exclude option behave exactly same as --inside/--outside when used alone.

    When used in combination, --include/--exclude are mixed in AND manner, while --inside/--outside are in OR.

    Thus, in the next example, first line prints all matches, and second does none.

      greple --inside PATTERN --outside PATTERN
      greple --include PATTERN --exclude PATTERN

    You can make up desired matches using --inside/--outside option, then remove unnecessary part by --include/--exclude

  • –strict

    Limit the match area strictly.

    By default, --block, --inside/outside, --include/--exclude option allows partial match within the specified area. For instance,

      greple --inside and command

    matches pattern command because the part of matched string is included in specified inside-area. Partial match fails when option --strict provided, and longer string never matches within shorter area.

    Interestingly enough, above example

      greple --include PATTERN --exclude PATTERN

    produces output, as a matter of fact. Think of the situation searching, say, ' PATTERN ' with this condition. Matched area includes surrounding spaces, and satisfies both conditions partially. This match does not occur when option --strict is given, either.


  • –icode=code

    Target file is assumed to be encoded in utf8 by default. Use this option to set specific encoding. When handling Japanese text, you may choose from 7bit-jis (jis), euc-jp or shiftjis (sjis). Multiple code can be supplied using multiple option or combined code names with space or comma, then file encoding is guessed from those code sets. Use encoding name guess for automatic recognition from default code list which is euc-jp and 7bit-jis. Following commands are all equivalent.

      greple --icode=guess ...
      greple --icode=euc-jp,7bit-jis ...
      greple --icode=euc-jp --icode=7bit-jis ...

    Default code set are always included suspect code list. If you have just one code adding to suspect list, put + mark before the code name. Next example does automatic code detection from euc-kr, ascii, utf8 and UTF-16/32.

      greple --icode=+euc-kr ...

    If the string “binary” is given as encoding name, no character encoding is expected and all files are processed as binary data.

  • –ocode=code

    Specify output code. Default is utf8.


  • –if=filter, –if=EXP:filter

    You can specify filter command which is applied to each file before search. If only one filter command is specified, it is applied to all files. If filter information include colon, first field will be perl expression to check the filename saved in variable $_. If it successes, next filter command is pushed.

      greple --if=rev perg
      greple --if='/\.tar$/:tar tvf -'

    If the command doesn’t accept standard input as processing data, you may be able to use special device:

      greple --if='nm /dev/stdin' crypt /usr/lib/lib*

    Filters for compressed and gzipped file is set by default unless --noif option is given. Default action is like this:

      greple --if='s/\.Z$//:zcat' --if='s/\.g?z$//:gunzip -c'

    File with .gpg suffix is filtered by gpg command. In that case, pass-phrase is asked for each file. If you want to input pass-phrase only once to find from multiple files, use -Mpgp module.

    If the filter start with &, perl subroutine is called instead of external command. You can define the subroutine in .greplerc or modules. Greple simply call the subroutine, so it should be responsible for process control.

  • –noif

    Disable default input filter. Which means compressed files will not be decompressed automatically.

  • –of=filter
  • –of=&func

    Specify output filter which process the output of greple command. Filter command can be specified in multiple times, and they are invoked for each file to be processed. So next command reset the line number for each file.

      greple --of 'cat -n' string file1 file2 ...

    If the filter start with &, perl subroutine is called instead of external command. You can define the subroutine in .greplerc or modules.

    Output filter command is executed only when matched string exists to avoid invoking many unnecessary processes. No effect for option -l and -c.

  • –pf=filter
  • –pf=&func

    Similar to --of filter but invoked just once and takes care of entire output from greple command.


  • –begin=function()
  • –begin=function=

    Option --begin specify the function executed at the beginning of each file processing. This function have to be called from main package. So if you define the function in the module package, use the full package name or export properly.

    If the function dies with a message starting with a word “SKIP” (/^SKIP/i), that file is simply skipped. So you can control if the file is to be processed using the file name or content. To see the message, use --warn begin=1 option.

    For example, using next function, only perl related files will be processed.

      sub is_perl {
          my %arg = @_;
          my $name = delete $arg{&FILELABEL} or die;
          $name =~ /\.(?:pm|pl|PL|pod)$/ or /\A#!.*\bperl/
              or die "skip $name\n";
      option default --filestyle=once --format FILE='\n%s:\n'
      autoload -Mdig --dig
      option --perl $<move> --begin &__PACKAGE__::is_perl --dig .
  • –end=function()
  • –end=function=

    Option --end is almost same as --begin, except that the function is called after the file processing.

  • –prologue=function()
  • –prologue=function=
  • –epilogue=function()
  • –epilogue=function=

    Option --prologue and --epilogue specify functions called before and after processing. During the execution, file is not opened and therefore, file name is not given to those functions.

  • –postgrep=function()
  • –postgrep=function=

    Specify the function called after each search operation. Funciton is called with App::Greple::Grep object which cotains all information about the search. This interface highly depends on the internal structure, so use with the utmost cation.

  • –callback=function()

    Callback function is called before printing every matched pattern with four labeled parameters: start, end, index and match, which corresponds to start and end position in the text, pattern index, and the matched string. Matched string in the text is replaced by returned string from the function.

    Multiple functions can be specified, and if there are multiple search patterns, they are applied in order and cyclically.

  • -Mmodule::function(…)
  • -Mmodule::function=…

    Function can be given with module option, following module name. In this form, the function will be called with module package name. So you don’t have to export it. Because it is called only once at the beginning of command execution, before starting file processing, FILELABEL parameter is not given exceptionally.

  • –print=function
  • –print=sub{…}

    Specify user defined function executed before data print. Text to be printed is replaced by the result of the function. Arbitrary function can be defined in .greplerc file or module. Matched data is placed in variable $_. Filename is passed by &FILELABEL key, as described later.

    It is possible to use multiple --print options. In that case, second function will get the result of the first function. The command will print the final result of the last function.

    This option and next –continue are no more recommended to use because –colormap and –callback functions are more simple and powerful.

  • –continue

    When --print option is given, greple will immediately print the result returned from print function and finish the cycle. Option --continue forces to continue normal printing process after print function called. So please be sure that all data being consistent.

For these run-time functions, optional argument list can be set in the form of key or key=value, connected by comma. These arguments will be passed to the function in key => value list. Sole key will have the value one. Also processing file name is passed with the key of FILELABEL constant. As a result, the option in the next form:

--begin function(key1,key2=val2)
--begin function=key1,key2=val2

will be transformed into following function call:

function(&FILELABEL => "filename", key1 => 1, key2 => "val2")

As described earlier, FILELABEL parameter is not given to the function specified with module option. So


simply becomes:

function(key1 => 1, key2 => "val2")

The function can be defined in .greplerc or modules. Assign the arguments into hash, then you can access argument list as member of the hash. It’s safe to delete FILELABEL key if you expect random parameter is given. Content of the target file can be accessed by $_. Ampersand (&) is required to avoid the hash key is interpreted as a bare word.

sub function {
    my %arg = @_;
    my $filename = delete $arg{&FILELABEL};
    $arg{key1};             # 1
    $arg{key2};             # "val2"
    $_;                     # contents


  • –usage[=expand]

    Greple print usage and exit with option --usage, or no valid parameter is not specified. In this case, module option is displayed with help information if available. If you want to see how they are expanded, supply something not empty to --usage option, like:

      greple -Mmodule --usage=expand
  • –exit=number

    When greple executed normally, it exit with status 0 or 1 depending on something matched or not. Sometimes we want to get status 0 even if nothing matched. This option set the status code for normal execution. It still exits with non-zero status when error occurred.

  • –man, –doc

    Show manual page. Display module’s manual page when used with -M option.

  • –show, –less

    Show module file contents. Use with -M option.

  • –path

    Show module file path. Use with -M option.

  • –norc

    Do not read startup file: ~/.greplerc. This option have to be placed before any other options including -M module options. Setting GREPLE_NORC environment have same effect.

  • –conceal type=val

    Use following --warn option in reverse context. This option remains for backward compatibility and will be deprecated in the near future.

  • –persist

    Same as --error=retry. It may be deprecated in the future.

  • –error=action

    As greple tries to read data as a character string, sometimes fails to convert them into internal representation, and the file is skipped without processing by default. This works fine to skip binary data. (skip)

    Also sometimes encounters code mapping error due to character encoding. In this case, reading the file as a binary data helps to produce meaningful output. (retry)

    This option specifies the action when data read error occurred.

    • skip

      Skip the file. Default.

    • retry

      Retry reading the file as a binary data.

    • fatal

      Abort the operation.

    • ignore

      Ignore error and continue to read anyway.

    You may occasionally want to find text in binary data. Next command will work like string(1) command.

      greple -o --re '(?a)\w{4,}' --error=retry --uc /bin/*

    If you want read all files as binary data, use --icode=binary instead.

  • -w, –warn type=[0,1]

    Control runtime message mainly about file operation related to --error option. Repeatable. Value is optional and 1 is assumed when omitted. So -wall option is same as -wall=1 and enables all messages, and -wall=0 disables all.

    Types are:

    • read

      (Default 0) Errors occurred during file read. Mainly unicode related errors when reading binary or ambiguous text file.

    • skip

      (Default 1) File skip message.

    • retry

      (Default 0) File retry message.

    • begin

      (Default 0) When --begin function died with /^SKIP/i message, the file is skipped without any notice. Enables this to see the dying message.

    • all

      Set same value for all types.

  • –alert [ size=#, time=# ]

    Set alert parameter for large file. Greple scans whole file content to know line borders, and it takes several seconds or more if it contains large number of lines.

    By default, if the target file contains more than 512 * 1024 characters (size), 2 seconds timer will start (time). Alert message is shown when the timer expired.

    To disable this alert, set the size as zero:

      --alert size=0
  • -Mdebug, -dx

    Debug option is described in App::Greple::debug module.



    Environment variable GREPLEOPTS is used as a default options. They are inserted before command line options.


    If set non-empty string, startup file ~/.greplerc is not processed.


    Enable Getopt::Long debug option.


    Enable Getopt::EX debug option.


    If true, all coloring capability with ANSI terminal sequence is disabled. See

Before starting execution, greple reads the file named .greplerc on user’s home directory. Following directives can be used.

  • option name string

    Argument name of option directive is user defined option name. The rest are processed by shellwords routine defined in Text::ParseWords module. Be sure that this module sometimes requires escape backslashes.

    Any kind of string can be used for option name but it is not combined with other options.

      option --fromcode --outside='(?s)\/\*.*?\*\/'
      option --fromcomment --inside='(?s)\/\*.*?\*\/'

    If the option named default is defined, it will be used as a default option.

    For the purpose to include following arguments within replaced strings, two special notations can be used in option definition. String $<n> is replaced by the n_th argument after the substituted option, where _n is number start from one. String $<shift> is replaced by following command line argument and the argument is removed from option list.

    For example, when

      option --line --le &line=$<shift>

    is defined, command

      greple --line 10,20-30,40

    will be evaluated as this:

      greple --le &line=10,20-30,40
  • expand name string

    Define local option name. Command expand is almost same as command option in terms of its function. However, option defined by this command is expanded in, and only in, the process of definition, while option definition is expanded when command arguments are processed.

    This is similar to string macro defined by following define command. But macro expansion is done by simple string replacement, so you have to use expand to define option composed by multiple arguments.

  • define name string

    Define macro. This is similar to option, but argument is not processed by shellwords and treated just a simple text, so meta-characters can be included without escape. Macro expansion is done for option definition and other macro definition. Macro is not evaluated in command line option. Use option directive if you want to use in command line,

      define (#kana) \p{InKatakana}
      option --kanalist --nocolor -o --join --re '(#kana)+(\n(#kana)+)*'
      help   --kanalist List up Katakana string
  • help name

    If help directive is used for same option name, it will be printed in usage message. If the help message is ignore, corresponding line won’t show up in the usage.

  • builtin spec variable

    Define built-in option which should be processed by option parser. Arguments are assumed to be Getopt::Long style spec, and variable is string start with $, @ or %. They will be replaced by a reference to the object which the string represent.

    See pgp module for example.

  • autoload module options

    Define module which should be loaded automatically when specified option is found in the command arguments.

    For example,

      autoload -Mdig --dig --git

    replaces option “--dig” to “-Mdig --dig”, so that dig module is loaded before processing --dig option.

Environment variable substitution is done for string specified by option and define directives. Use Perl syntax $ENV{NAME} for this purpose. You can use this to make a portable module.

When greple found __PERL__ line in .greplerc file, the rest of the file is evaluated as a Perl program. You can define your own subroutines which can be used by --inside/--outside, --include/--exclude, --block options.

For those subroutines, file content will be provided by global variable $_. Expected response from the subroutine is the list of array references, which is made up by start and end offset pairs.

For example, suppose that the following function is defined in your .greplerc file. Start and end offset for each pattern match can be taken as array element $-[0] and $+[0].

sub odd_line {
    my @list;
    my $i;
    while (/.*\n/g) {
        push(@list, [ $-[0], $+[0] ]) if ++$i % 2;

You can use next command to search pattern included in odd number lines.

% greple --inside '&odd_line' pattern files...


You can expand the greple command using module. Module files are placed at App/Greple/ directory in Perl library, and therefor has App::Greple::module package name.

In the command line, module have to be specified preceding any other options in the form of -Mmodule. However, it also can be specified at the beginning of option expansion.

If the package name is declared properly, __DATA__ section in the module file will be interpreted same as .greplerc file content. So you can declare the module specific options there. Functions declared in the module can be used from those options, it makes highly expandable option/programming interaction possible.

Using -M without module argument will print available module list. Option --man will display module document when used with -M option. Use --show option to see the module itself. Option --path will print the path of module file.

See this sample module code. This sample defines options to search from pod, comment and other segment in Perl script. Those capability can be implemented both in function and macro.

package App::Greple::perl;

use Exporter 'import';
our @EXPORT      = qw(pod comment podcomment);
our %EXPORT_TAGS = ( );
our @EXPORT_OK   = qw();

use App::Greple::Common;
use App::Greple::Regions;

my $pod_re = qr{^=\w+(?s:.*?)(?:\Z|^=cut\s*\n)}m;
my $comment_re = qr{^(?:[ \t]*#.*\n)+}m;

sub pod {
    match_regions(pattern => $pod_re);
sub comment {
    match_regions(pattern => $comment_re);
sub podcomment {
    match_regions(pattern => qr/$pod_re|$comment_re/);



define :comment: ^(\s*#.*\n)+
define :pod: ^=(?s:.*?)(?:\Z|^=cut\s*\n)

#option --pod --inside :pod:
#option --comment --inside :comment:
#option --code --outside :pod:|:comment:

option --pod --inside '&pod'
option --comment --inside '&comment'
option --code --outside '&podcomment'

You can use the module like this:

greple -Mperl --pod default greple

greple -Mperl --colorful --code --comment --pod default greple

If special subroutine initialize() and finalize() are defined in the module, they are called at the beginning with Getopt::EX::Module object as a first argument. Second argument is the reference to @ARGV, and you can modify actual @ARGV using it. See App::Greple::find module as an example.

Calling sequence is like this. See Getopt::EX::Module for detail.

1) Call initialize()
2) Call function given in -Mmod::func() style
3) Call finalize()


Most capability of greple is derived from mg command, which has been developing from early 1990’s by the same author. Because modern standard grep family command becomes to have similar capabilities, it is a time to clean up entire functionalities, totally remodel the option interfaces, and change the command name. (2013.11)


grep(1), perl(1)




Kazumasa Utashiro


Copyright 1991-2023 Kazumasa Utashiro

This library is free software; you can redistribute it and/or modify it under the same terms as Perl itself.