I have a directory containing a large number of PDF files, some of which are in subdirectories (which can extend several layers deep). I would like to move all files matching *.pdf into a single output folder named papers.

How can I do this?

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    How would you like to handle the case there are two files a/x.pdf and b/x.pdf? – Colonel Panic Sep 20 '12 at 19:00

If you use bash in a recent version, you can profit from the globstar option:

shopt -s globstar
mv **/*.pdf papers/
  find /bunchopdfs -name "*.pdf" -exec mv {} /papers \;    

Here's a test I did

$ ls -R
a  aaa bbb.pdf  pdfs



Notice the file "aaa bbb.pdf".

$ find . -name "*pdf" -exec mv {} pdfs \;
$ ls -R
a  pdfs


aaa bbb.pdf  foo.pdf
  • Beautiful! +1 ! – PenguinCoder Sep 20 '12 at 15:44
  • Don't you need to quote "{}" to deal with file names containing spaces? – terdon Sep 21 '12 at 16:10
  • @terdon: Actually, no you don't (though that sort of problem does catch me out sometimes). See updated answer. – RedGrittyBrick Sep 21 '12 at 16:22
find -print0 /directory/with/pdfs -iname "*.pdf" | xargs -0 mv -t /papers

(similar to another answer but I prefer pipe/xargs/mv ... more intuitive for me)

FYI, I did the above one-line script successfully on multiple directories and multiple pdf files.

  • 1
    xargs has the issue of "spaces in filenames" that -exec doesn't. You can mediate this somewhat by adding args -print0 to your find, and -0 to xargs. – Rich Homolka Sep 20 '12 at 20:00
  • @RichHomolka see changed answer. (Thanks for the tip. That is really useful!) – Trevor Boyd Smith Sep 24 '12 at 10:32
  • Have you ever tried that? Looks like you need to add the "-print0" at the end of the find command – tollo May 16 '18 at 16:41

For the Windows command line (cmd.exe), you can use:

for /F "usebackq delims==" %j IN (`dir /s /b *.pdf`) do copy "%j" c:\target_dir
  • 1
    Hi and welcome to SU. Thank you for your answer, but the question specifically requests a linux solution. – terdon Sep 21 '12 at 16:05
  • 2
    It is still marvelous that windows can do that too! – Vorac Sep 26 '12 at 10:01

If you're only searching one directory deep, you could do:

mkdir <destination>
mv */*.pdf <destination>

where <destination> stands for some directory. mv will not automatically create a directory for you.

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