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A collection of grep wrappers and tools for various filetypes.

Project Description


From pip (recommended):

$ sudo pip install greptools

From source (for developers):

$ git clone
$ cd greptools
$ sudo python2.7 develop


greptools is a collection of CLI search tools similar to grep or ack. These tools were designed with programmers in mind and each tool is targetted at a different programming language or structured file format.

Each language specific tool recursively searches files relating to that language in the current directory and sorts results into a context tree (refered to as a grep tree). The exact format of the grep tree depends on the language in question but it takes the form of nested datstructure with each level representing a file, class or function.

Each tool uses grep to perform the actual searching, and for each result it opens the file and reads it to decide which class/function it belongs to.


It’s simple to use. Here’s an example using the tool for python code: pygt.

To look for usages of the word “traceback” inside a subdirectory of the core Python source code:

$ cd Python-2.7.3/Lib/multiprocessing
$ pygt traceback
    def _serve
         132:^                import traceback$
         135:^                    '-'*79 + '\n' + traceback.format_exc() + '-'*79$

    class Queue
        def _feed
             280:^                    import traceback$
             281:^                    traceback.print_exc()$

     49:^from traceback import format_exc$

    class Server
        def shutdown
             368:^                import traceback$
             369:^                traceback.print_exc()$

    def _run_finalizers
         263:^            import traceback$
         264:^            traceback.print_exc()$

    class Process
        def _bootstrap
             273:^            import traceback$
             276:^            traceback.print_exc()$

Command-line options

These options should apply to all the available greptools so just use the name of the tool you’re using in place of <greptool> below:

Debug information

Turning this on prints out lots of additional information (e.g. raw grep results) that can be used to diagnose bugs in the logic at various stages. Useful if you’re trying to develop your own greptool or add features to the base classes.

$ <greptool> -d <SEARCH_TERM>

Set operations

One of the really useful features these greptools is that they support treating the results like sets and quickly filtering results by applying set operations.

Let’s look at a simple example.

Let’s say you need to quickly look through all the imports in your python project. That’s simple: pygt import.

Now lets say you want to narrow down those results to those that mention os.path. This can be done by piping the results from our earlier search into a new search for the new term like so:

$ pygt import | pygt os.path

This will effectively perform an intersection on both sets of results and so only provide matches that contain both import and os.path.

You can perform other set operations too! Let’s say you don’t want any results containing os.path. You can get the relative complement by piping like we did before and setting the -F (filter) flag on the last search command like so:

$ pygt import | pygt -F os.path

You can add both sets of results together with -U (union) and only return results that contain one and not the other by using -X (XOR, a.k.a symetric difference).

Caveats with using set operations

Both the default (intersection) set op and the filter set op shown above aren’t actually true set operations.

It turns out treating search results like sets and performing these operations isn’t that fast as we hoped so we made a compromise. These two work by iterating through that first set of results and checking for the second search term using python’s built in regex engine.

You may experience issues from the use of two different engines. For example, if you are using complicated regular expressions you may find that they behave differently when using intersection or filter set operations.

You can choose to use the slow intersection (-N) and the slow filter (-E) instead which work by building both sets of results and comparing.

In order to use the pipe to pass one set of results to an other pygt process we had to serialise them first. This means that if you try piping the results to any other process (like less for example) they’ll show up in json format. This will happen even if you use other output formats like the histogram format.

If this causes problems for you, use -p. This will force it to pipe out results in what ever format you’ve choosen (except the default ‘colour’ format. It will be changed to clean because it looks really ugly when it’s piped out).

Writing a new greptool

So you’ve decided you need a greptool for your favourite language X.

Here are a basic set of instructions to create a new greptool:

1) Implement a new Reader class.

Are code blocks in X based on indentation or deliniated by braces?

There are some classes you can inherit from (IndentReader and BraceReader) that are generalised for these cases. The docstrings should have details that tell you what needs to be implemented by subclasses. PythonReader and JavaReader are good examples of IndentReader and BraceReader subclasses respectively.

If neither of these suit your purposes, you may need to inherit from BaseReader. The logic you need to implement in this case is a little more abstract, I’m not sure the docstrings are detailed enough. If you can’t figure out what to do from a reading of the code feel free to drop me an email with an outline of what you’re working on, I’d be glad to help!

2) Add details to greptools/reader/

Two things you’ll need to do: include a relative import of your new reader class and add the name of that class to __all__.

3) Add new script to bin/

My advice is to copy a preexisting script. The convention is to base the script name on the language file extention (e.g. Python files have a .py extention so the Python greptool is called pygt).

Don’t forget to change the name of the Reader class used in the script.

$ cp bin/pygt bin/xgt
$ sed -i "s/PythonReader/XReader/g" bin/xgt

4) Mention script in

There’s a scripts list in Add your new script here so that it’s installed with all the others.

5) Reinstall.

$ sudo python2.7 develop


Name: Nic Roland
Twitter: @nicr9_
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