grepWin is an open source tool that searches for files and inside documents using regex

Apr 9, 2021
Updated • Apr 13, 2021
Software, Windows software

What's your preferred desktop search engine program? The answer is likely Everything, by Void Tools. I agree with you, it is a fantastic application.

grepWin is an open source tool that searches for files and inside documents using regex

GrepWin is an open source program that specializes in finding text in documents; it supports advanced regular expression filters, and you may want to give it a try for that purpose.

The program's interface is not the most user-friendly, but that's probably an impression caused by the various options on the screen.

grepWin example

Select the folder that you want to search by clicking the three-dot button at the top. Enter your query in the box that's labeled "Search For". For a more advanced approach, you may opt for the Regex search mode. GrepWin even has a test regex option for checking if your regular expression works or not. Hit F1 to view the help file, it has a list of all supported regex syntax.

grepWin regex commands

Hit the enter key or click on the search button to make the query and grepWin will list the results on the pane at the bottom. The information is split into various columns, such as file name, size, path, extension, encoding, and date modified. Double-click on a file to open it in its default app, e.g. TXT files in Notepad, audio files in your music player, and so on. Right-click on a result to access the Explorer shell menu.

GrepWin could list a ton of files, and if you have trouble finding the one you wanted, I recommend playing around with the Limit Search settings to restrict the process by file size, date, hidden, system or binary files, disabling recursive search (subfolders). This also shortens the time taken for the search to complete by a considerable duration.

grepWin regex search

You can blacklist specific folders from searches using the exclude dirs box, the syntax is ^(FOLDERNAME)$. To include file types, use wildcards like *.TXT, and to exclude types, add a - before it. You may add | to separate multiple items. Speaking of regular expressions, you can add the ones you use to the presets, which will help you add them quickly the next time. Don't feel intimidated by these options, you don't need to know regex commands to use the program for simple searches, though by doing so you'll be missing out on some of its strongest filters.

Switch between the Files search mode and the Content finder by toggling the option in the bottom right corner of the window. This changes the columns in the search results pane, to display the relevant information. The Files mode lists the name, path of the documents which contain the search term.

GrepWin's content mode can search inside documents and list every instance the phrase was found in each document along with the line name and a preview of the text. The application supports case-sensitive search, which can be handy if there are a lot of matches, and you want to filter them based on the case. The application can be used to replace content in documents directly, to use this option enter the words in the replace with box, and click on the Replace button. You may want to enable the create backup file option, before using the replace function.

The Search button in grepWin has a few additional options including an inverted lookup, i.e. find files that don't match the entered query. You can also use it to run a search within the found results.

GrepWin is available for 32-bit and 64-bit computers, and comes in portable versions. If you're using the installer version, you can access the program from the Windows Explorer context menu.

DnGrep is a similar software, in fact it is nearly identical to grepWin. I'm not sure if one of them is a fork of the other.


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  1. Jeff M.S. said on April 12, 2021 at 3:48 pm

    What in the world are regular expressions? Explain in a simpler way please.

    1. owl said on April 13, 2021 at 6:27 am

      Regular expression is a notation used to specify a string with a certain pattern. It is used to specify the target of search, replace, and extraction of strings.

      The characteristics of a pattern can be described by embedding combinations of symbols and other characters that are given special meanings, called “metacharacter”, within the normal sequence of characters.
      For example, the metacharacter “^” represents the beginning of a line, “.” means any single character, and “+” means one or more repetitions of the previous element.

      With regular expressions, strings with the same characteristics, but different details can be specified at the same time in a single notation, and it is possible to extract parts of a long text that match a certain pattern and replace them all together with the same string.
      For example, the regular expression “.et” represents the pattern “any single character” + “et”, which matches “net”, “get”, “set”, “let”, etc.

      Regular expression | Wikipedia

      1. Jeff M.S. said on April 15, 2021 at 12:13 am

        Thank you now I understand. I had read Wikipedia but not understood before.

  2. Bruce Mangee said on April 10, 2021 at 6:14 pm

    For finding text in scanned documents i use:
    – Recoll under GNU/Linux
    – AndroSearch under Android
    – Cortana >> Documents (with a PDF IFilter) under Windows

    Best experience in usability is AndroSearch by far, then Cortana and Recoll.
    I have a structure in naming my documents, so most of the time a simple file search (Catfish, Everything) is sufficient.

  3. owl said on April 10, 2021 at 1:42 pm

    In my opinion, I prefer Nirsoft’s SearchMyFiles for “File Search”, but I also use WizFile, Everything, and UltraSearch depending on the situation.
    Everything is versatile and fast to search.
    To want to search for some specific file, WizFile is the fastest and very useful.
    UltraSearch, like WizFile, can display search results instantly. WizFile cannot search multiple files and folders, but UltraSearch does. Moreover, duplicate files and duplicate folders can be extracted instantly, and editing (renaming, moving, duplicating, deleting) can be done at will, UltraSearch is very useful.

    UltraSearch | JAM Software
    Main Features at a Glance
    Unique Technology:
    UltraSearch does not maintain an index which is stored on your harddisk, but achieves its speed by working directly on the Master File Table (MFT) of the NTFS partitions.
    UltraSearch even identifies NTFS hardlinks.
    Efficient Search:
    Simply enter a file name or a pattern like *.exe and see the first results while you are still typing.
    In addition, UltraSearch supports regular expressions and will search file content.
    Exclude folders, files or file types from searches via an exclude filter.
    Define file groups (such as movie files, text files etc.) and search for all file extensions the group contains.
    The search results can be sorted according to different criteria, printed or exported as text and CSV file.
    Search Patterns:
    The recently used search patterns can be saved and selected from a dropdown list.
    UltraSearch can suggest patterns or autocomplete manually entered patterns automatically.
    Comfortable Handling:
    UltraSearch can be started from the context menu of your Windows Explorer – starting a search within the selected directory could not be easier.
    Use UltraSearch wherever you like thanks to the portable ZIP version.
    Additional information like file size and file dates (last changes, last access and file creation) will be shown for all listed files. Naturally, the Explorer context menu is available inside UltraSearch.

    1. owl said on April 10, 2021 at 1:44 pm

      I tried grepWin (grepWin-x64-2.0.7_portable.exe), and certainly got a good feeling about it. But the search speed is too slow. (UltraSearch will return results instantly.)
      grepWin: A powerful and fast search tool using regular expressions | GitHub – stefankueng
      Releases: grepWin | GitHub – stefankueng
      Issues: grepWin | GitHub – stefankueng

  4. Yuliya said on April 10, 2021 at 6:57 am

    This is a tie-in to that facebook leak, btw :^)

    1. owl said on April 10, 2021 at 11:59 pm

      > This is a tie-in to that facebook leak, btw :^)

      Your comment is an interesting and thought-provoking one.
      However, I could not understand what you were referring to.
      By the way, I checked his e-mail ( to the grepWin developer with “Have I Been Pwned” and didn’t find any problem.
      stefankueng (Stefan Küng) | GitHub
      About | Stefans Tools
      Have I Been Pwned: Check if your email has been compromised in a data breach
      Are you referring to the “product line” that he developed?
      Home | Stefans Tools

      Or is it about the trend of “gHacks Tech News” articles?

  5. Johnny said on April 9, 2021 at 9:16 pm

    It is great software, but when I needed multi-line search-and-replace inside the files, I’ve switched to dnGrep, because, despite being able to accept multi-line text in the input field, it does not provide matches, while dnGrep does, and it has all the features as grepWin.

  6. Ross Presser said on April 9, 2021 at 5:58 pm

    Sorry, grepWin, but I see no need to combine searching for filenames with searching in contents. Everything for the former, plain old commandline grep (or the Powershell Equivalent, Select-String) for the latter.

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