Super User is a question and answer site for computer enthusiasts and power users. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I'd like to limit output of find command. In the past I used to use for this ls command, e.g:

ls *tgz|head -100|xargs -i mv "{}" ../

but I got to know that the result may be unpredictable if name of file contains new line character. So more correct way to do this is something like that:

find ... -print0 | xargs -0

But taking this approach I'm not able to limit output of find with head command - it shows all file names separated with ^@ special sign:

 find . -name '*tgz' -print0|head -2|less


Is there a method to work this awkwardness away?

I tried to resolve it with help of awk:

find . -name 'BATCHED*' -print0|awk 'BEGIN{RS=""}'

but it still displays either all or zero lines.

May it be solved with help of awk? Is there better solution?

BTW. I found this very instructive reference but there is not answer on my question.

share|improve this question
up vote 3 down vote accepted

Another opportunity for safe find:

while IFS= read -r -d '' -u 9
    let ++count
    if [[ count -gt 10 ]]
        unset count
    printf "$REPLY"
    printf "$\x00"
done 9< <( find /full/path -print0 )

To verify, simply pipe it into this:

while IFS= read -r -d ''
    echo "START${REPLY}END"
share|improve this answer
Thank you very much for this post. It works fine. There is one thing I don't understand: what does done 9< <( find /full/path -print0 ) mean in this context? I'm used to application of done < "Filename" pattern, but I don't know this one. Thank you in advance. – szamasz Mar 7 '12 at 13:57
It's using file descriptor number 9 instead of stdin. That way you can use stdin in the loop (cat/ssh) without worrying about your loop terminating after the first file because the whole stream was swallowed. – l0b0 Mar 7 '12 at 14:32
Thank you - it helps a lot. – szamasz Mar 9 '12 at 8:11

The problem stems from xargs being word-orientated, while commands like head and tail are line-orientated. One solution could be to not use xargs but instead GNU parallel.

share|improve this answer
Thank you for your comment. I have never heard about GNU parallel before. BTW - once I checked this webpage I saw one more answer - do you know maybe what happened to it? – szamasz Mar 7 '12 at 13:58
Nope, I haven't got a clue what happened to it. – Magnus Mar 11 '12 at 21:11

I believe you're looking for the --max-args or --max-lines argument to xargs, depending on your input format:

# Run less on no more than two files at a time
find . -type f -print0 | xargs --null --max-args=2 less
share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.