I try to filter the output of M-x grep with grep --color=always -nH -e "text_to_find" ~/path/to/files/*.org | grep -v "text_to_ignore" but it doesn't seem to be working. The 'to be ignored' part is still not filtered away.

Is it true that grep in Emacs do not support piping? If so, how do we filter grep results?

  • grep in Emacs is just grep. It's whatever OS grep you have. There is an Emacs command grep, but it just invokes your OS grep (and gives you nice access to the results etc.). – Drew Jun 20 at 17:28
  • I assume grep command doesn't invoke a shell, so things like in it won't work. – DoMiNeLa10 Jun 20 at 17:48

Note that the first grep grep --color=always -nH -e "text_to_find" ~/path/to/files/*.org puts escape sequences around matches for text_to_find to colorize those matches.

If the second search string text_to_ignore contains text_to_find. Matches of text_to_ignore in the original files are not found in the output of the first grep call because of those escape sequences.

Leave the --color=always option out to avoid that effect. The matches of text_to_find are no longer highlighted with yellow color but the second grep works if text_to_find is part of text_to_ignore.

If you really need to colorize the matches for text_to_find you can colorize them as a last step:

grep -nH -e "text_to_find" ~/path/to/files/*.org | grep -v "text_to_ignore | grep --color=always -e "text_to_find""

What you were attempting with a pipe works fine for me (tested in 26.1 and 25.3).

  • Which version are you using?
  • Does your command work outside of Emacs?

Edit: C-hv grep-use-null-device might mess up your command, by preventing the second grep from reading stdin. This would be apparent in the command line displayed in the grep buffer. If this is the issue, then hopefully you can simply disable that option via the customize interface.

Failing that, you can always filter the results after the fact with the flush-lines and keep-lines commands, after toggling the read-only state with C-xC-q.

Personally I like/use the winnow library for streamlining that:

Use x to remove lines matching a pattern, or m to keep only the lines matching a pattern.


Another alternative:

The elgrep library allows searching files without external programs and with user-defined search function.

The command M-x elgrep-menu -- also available as menu item Tools -> Search Files (elgrep)... -- provides an input field Search Function.

The following search function searches for the given regular expression text but ignores lines that match text_to_ignore.

(lambda (re &rest _) (and (re-search-forward re nil t) (null (string-match-p "text_to_ignore" (thing-at-point 'line)))))


  • elgrep only checks whether the return value of the search function is non-nil
  • it evaluates the match data after a successful return of the search function
  • string-match-p preserves the match data
  • (thing-at-point 'line) uses forward-line and therefore does also not change the match data

The following image shows the full dialog of elgrep-menu.

Ignoring text with elgrep

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.