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 file * |  grep 'ASCII text' | chmod -x 
chmod: missing operand
Try `chmod --help' for more information.

The above command gives me error.Basically I am trying to find all the files whose type is ASCII and change their permissions to -x.What mistake is there in above syntax?

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

One: grep 'ASCII text' returns not only the file name, but also the type of the file itself; you need to process the output to return only the file name

Two: chmod does not accept arguments from STDIN, which is what you're trying to do with the pipe |. You'll have to either use xargs or wrap the above in a for loop

That said, here are two solutions for you:

Solution #1: With Pipes

file * | awk '/ASCII text/ {gsub(/:/,"",$1); print $1}' | xargs chmod -x

Solution #2: With for-loop

for fn in $(file * | awk '/ASCII text/ {gsub(/:/,"",$1); print $1}'); do chmod -x "$fn"; done

Pick yer poison :-)

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This should work regardless of whether filenames contain spaces or colons:

find -maxdepth 1 -type f -exec sh -c 'file -b "{}" | grep -sq ASCII' \; -print0 | xargs -0 chmod -x

You can remove the -maxdepth 1 to make it recursive.

There may be false positives if filenames themselves contain the string "ASCII".


I incorporated pepoluan's suggestion of using the -b option for file so the filename isn't output for the test by grep. This should eliminate false positives.

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Then the grep should match with [[:space:]]ASCII ... for more details: – pepoluan Mar 8 '11 at 11:27
@pepoluan: If you're talking about the part where I mention potential false positives, then it is correct that the more specific the regex is the less chance there is, but a filename could still match [[:space:]]ASCII. – Dennis Williamson Mar 8 '11 at 11:31
@Dennis: Ah, you're right. In that case, I suggest using awk -F ":" '/ASCII/ && $1!~/ASCII/ {print $1} – pepoluan Mar 8 '11 at 11:40
@pepoluan: But what if a file with "ASCII" in its name is an ASCII file? You don't want to falsely reject a file, either. Or if there's a file named "ASCII:ASCII" ... ad infinitum. You can reduce the chances, but you can't eliminate them. – Dennis Williamson Mar 8 '11 at 11:44
Heh, possible. Maybe better to have for fn in *; do [[ $(file -b "$fn") =~ ASCII ]] && chmod -x "$fn"; done. What do you think? – pepoluan Mar 8 '11 at 11:49
for f in `file * | grep "ASCII text" | awk "{print \\$1}" | awk -F ":" "{print \\$1}"`; do chmod -x "$f"; done
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And another one liner - be aware of the need to strip the : ASCII Text and quote the names too

file * | grep 'ASCII text' | sed  's|\(^.*\):.*|\"\1\"|'| xargs chmod -x
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