ack: A grep for programmers

I am vastly undequalified to speak about ack, since the home page makes it abundantly clear that it’s a perl-based grep-like tool intended for programmers.

I am not a programmer, unless an emergency arises, and then there would be a better chance of success by employing a blind, one-armed, drunk monkey to smack at a keyboard for a few hours. I am quite confident of that.

But ack is on my list and I’d feel slightly guilty if I didn’t include it, since it was relayed to me by email from a reader (who asked to remain nameless). So here is my best attempt at ack, and the wizardry it reportedly can perform.


Let’s see. Color? Check. Easily readable output? Check. Searches entire tree? Check. Returns results with file and line number annotated? Check.

Well then, that’s my whole list.

As I understand it (because again, this is not a tool intended for the peons, like me) ack is supposedly faster or more complete than the traditional grep, and carries defaults specific to searching trees of source code files.

Not that grep can’t do those things. …


Only that ack supposedly does them better. Or at least that’s the impression I get from the Web site.

Like I said, I’m not a programmer so I don’t feel qualified to pick between the two. I have no preference for either, and I’m likely to stick with grep just because grep appears on my Arch system (and some others) by default.

I can be lazy that way. 🙄

8 thoughts on “ack: A grep for programmers

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  2. Scott

    I rather enjoy using ack. As the ack man page suggests – “Ack is designed as a replacemnt for 99% of the uses of grep”. I don’t have to be a “power regex user” to get information out of grep.

    I would encourage others to at least try it.

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