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30.7 Operating on Files

This section describes the basic Dired commands to operate on one file or several files. All of these commands are capital letters; all of them use the minibuffer, either to read an argument or to ask for confirmation, before they act. All of them let you specify the files to manipulate in these ways:

Certain other Dired commands, such as ! and the ‘%’ commands, use the same conventions to decide which files to work on.

Commands which ask for a destination directory, such as those which copy and rename files or create links for them, try to guess the default target directory for the operation. Normally, they suggest the Dired buffer’s default directory, but if the option dired-dwim-target is non-nil, and if there is another Dired buffer displayed in some window, that other buffer’s directory is suggested instead. You can customize dired-dwim-target to prefer either the next window with a Dired buffer, or the most recently used window with a Dired buffer, or to use any other function. When the value is a function, it will be called with no arguments and is expected to return a list of directories which will be used as defaults (i.e. default target and “future history”).

Here are the file-manipulating Dired commands that operate on files.

C new RET

Copy the specified files (dired-do-copy). The argument new is the directory to copy into, or (if copying a single file) the new name. This is like the shell command cp.

The option dired-create-destination-dirs controls whether Dired should create non-existent directories in the destination while copying/renaming files. The default value nil means Dired never creates such missing directories; the value always, means Dired automatically creates them; the value ask means Dired asks you for confirmation before creating them.

If dired-copy-preserve-time is non-nil, then copying with this command preserves the modification time of the old file in the copy, like ‘cp -p’.

The variable dired-recursive-copies controls whether to copy directories recursively (like ‘cp -r’). The default is top, which means to ask before recursively copying a directory.

D

Delete the specified files (dired-do-delete). This is like the shell command rm.

Like the other commands in this section, this command operates on the marked files, or the next n files. By contrast, x (dired-do-flagged-delete) deletes all flagged files.

R new RET

Rename the specified files (dired-do-rename). If you rename a single file, the argument new is the new name of the file. If you rename several files, the argument new is the directory into which to move the files (this is like the shell command mv).

The option dired-create-destination-dirs controls whether Dired should create non-existent directories in new.

Dired automatically changes the visited file name of buffers associated with renamed files so that they refer to the new names.

If the value of the variable dired-vc-rename-file is non-nil, files are renamed using the commands of the underlying VCS, via vc-rename-file (see VC Delete/Rename).

H new RET

Make hard links to the specified files (dired-do-hardlink). This is like the shell command ln. The argument new is the directory to make the links in, or (if making just one link) the name to give the link.

S new RET

Make symbolic links to the specified files (dired-do-symlink). This is like ‘ln -s’. The argument new is the directory to make the links in, or (if making just one link) the name to give the link.

M modespec RET

Change the mode (also called permission bits) of the specified files (dired-do-chmod). modespec can be in octal or symbolic notation, like arguments handled by the chmod program.

G newgroup RET

Change the group of the specified files to newgroup (dired-do-chgrp).

O newowner RET

Change the owner of the specified files to newowner (dired-do-chown). (On most systems, only the superuser can do this.)

The variable dired-chown-program specifies the name of the program to use to do the work. (This variable is necessary because different systems put chown in different places).

T timestamp RET

Touch the specified files (dired-do-touch). This means updating their modification times to the present time. This is like the shell command touch.

P command RET

Print the specified files (dired-do-print). You must specify the command to print them with, but the minibuffer starts out with a suitable guess made using the variables lpr-command and lpr-switches (the same variables that lpr-buffer uses; see Printing).

Z

Compress the specified files (dired-do-compress). If the file appears to be a compressed file already, uncompress it instead. Each marked file is compressed into its own archive; this uses the gzip program if it is available, otherwise it uses compress. On a directory name, this command produces a compressed .tar.gz archive containing all of the directory’s files, by running the tar command with output piped to gzip. To allow decompression of compressed directories, typing Z on a .tar.gz or .tgz archive file unpacks all the files in the archive into a directory whose name is the archive name with the extension removed.

c

Compress the specified files (dired-do-compress-to) into a single archive anywhere on the file system. The compression algorithm is determined by the extension of the archive, see dired-compress-files-alist.

:d

Decrypt the specified files (epa-dired-do-decrypt). See Dired integration in EasyPG Assistant User’s Manual.

:v

Verify digital signatures on the specified files (epa-dired-do-verify). See Dired integration in EasyPG Assistant User’s Manual.

:s

Digitally sign the specified files (epa-dired-do-sign). See Dired integration in EasyPG Assistant User’s Manual.

:e

Encrypt the specified files (epa-dired-do-encrypt). See Dired integration in EasyPG Assistant User’s Manual.

L

Load the specified Emacs Lisp files (dired-do-load). See Lisp Libraries.

B

Byte compile the specified Emacs Lisp files (dired-do-byte-compile). See Byte Compilation in The Emacs Lisp Reference Manual.

A regexp RET

Search all the specified files for the regular expression regexp (dired-do-find-regexp).

This command is a variant of xref-find-references (see Identifier Search), it displays the *xref* buffer, where you can navigate between matches and display them as needed using the commands described in Xref Commands.

If any of the marked files are directories, then this command searches all of the files in those directories, and any of their subdirectories, recursively, except files whose names match grep-find-ignored-files and subdirectories whose names match grep-find-ignored-directories.

Q regexp RET to RET

Perform query-replace-regexp on each of the specified files, replacing matches for regexp with the string to (dired-do-find-regexp-and-replace).

This command is a variant of xref-query-replace-in-results. It presents an *xref* buffer that lists all the matches of regexp, and you can use the special commands in that buffer (see Xref Commands). In particular, if you exit the query replace loop, you can use r in that buffer to replace more matches. See Identifier Search.

Like with dired-do-find-regexp, if any of the marked files are directories, this command performs replacements in all of the files in those directories, and in any of their subdirectories, recursively, except for files whose names match grep-find-ignored-files and subdirectories whose names match grep-find-ignored-directories.

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