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3.3.3 Querying

To ask the user whether to execute a command on a single file, you can use the find primary ‘-okdir’ instead of ‘-execdir’, and the find primary ‘-ok’ instead of ‘-exec’:

Action: -okdir command ;

Like ‘-execdir’ (see Single File), but ask the user first. If the user does not agree to run the command, just return false. Otherwise, run it, with standard input redirected from /dev/null.

The response to the prompt is matched against a pair of regular expressions to determine if it is a yes or no response. These regular expressions are obtained from the system (nl_langinfo items YESEXPR and NOEXPR are used) if the POSIXLY_CORRECT environment variable is set and the system has such patterns available. Otherwise, find’s message translations are used. In either case, the LC_MESSAGES environment variable will determine the regular expressions used to determine if the answer is affirmative or negative. The interpretation of the regular expressions themselves will be affected by the environment variables LC_CTYPE (character classes) and LC_COLLATE (character ranges and equivalence classes).

Action: -ok command ;

This insecure variant of the ‘-okdir’ action is specified by POSIX. The main difference is that the command is executed in the directory from which find was invoked, meaning that ‘{}’ is expanded to a relative path starting with the name of one of the starting directories, rather than just the basename of the matched file. If the command is run, its standard input is redirected from /dev/null.

When processing multiple files with a single command, to query the user you give xargs the following option. When using this option, you might find it useful to control the number of files processed per invocation of the command (see Limiting Command Size).


Prompt the user about whether to run each command line and read a line from the terminal. Only run the command line if the response starts with ‘y’ or ‘Y’. Implies ‘-t’.

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