Tools that work with ack


Users of TextMate, the programmer's editor for the Mac, can use the AckMate plugin by Trevor Squires:

TextMate users know just how slow its "Find in Project" can be with large source trees. That's why you need "ack-in-project" — a TextMate bundle that uses the super-speedy "ack" tool to search your code FAST. It gives you beautiful, clickable results just as fast as "ack" can find them. Check it out at:


ack.vim provides an interface between ack and vim. For example, you can call :Ack foo, which will run ack and load ack's results into a vim buffer for manipulation and navigation.

ack.vim is available at the official vim website at


ack2vim eases the interface beween ack and vim, so that ack's findings can be found with vim as well.


ctrlsf.vim is an ack.vim alternative that mimics Ctrl-Shift-F on Sublime Text 2. It takes advantage of Vim 8's power to support asynchronous searching, and it lets you edit files in-place with Edit Mode.

Emacs integration

There are at least four different Emacs modes for supporting ack here at the Emacs Wiki:

Note: Be careful of any solution that defaults you to using --all, since that option no longer exists in ack 2.


hhlighter is a wrapper around ack to make it easy to highlight words in a file. Invoke it like

cat file | h foo bar bat
and each of the three words "foo", "bar" and "bat" will be highlighted as a different color. See

Other grep-like tools

There are many ways to search source code that are more flexible and tuned to programmers than straight grep. I suggest you take a look at some of these alternatives, for they may suit your needs better than ack. If you have any suggestions to add to this list, please let me know at or submit an issue at

ag, the Silver Searcher

Geoff Greer says "ag is like ack, but better. It's fast. It's damn fast. The only thing faster is stuff that builds indices beforehand, like Ctags." Geoff has also created a fork of AckMate that uses Ag instead of ack.


Cgrep is a grep tool suitable for searching in large code repositories. It supports 30 programming languages and searches that go beyond the simple pattern matching. It enables context-aware filtering and semantic searches through wildcard and combinators.


grab is another faster grep alternative that tries to use multiple cores. It also uses parallel processing, mmap and other speedy tricks behind the scenes.


The biggest departure from ack, glark adds many more features like the ability to AND and OR your patterns. It's written in Ruby.


greple is a search tools that lets you search for multiple keywords at a time.


"A grep program configured the way I like it", written in Python by Robert Kern.


paragrep is a text search tool that operates at the paragraph level.


pss is an ack clone written in Python by Eli Bendersky. It's written in pure Python with no additional modules necessary.

pt, the Platinum Searcher

The Platinum Searcher is another code search tool similar to ack and ag. It supports multi platforms and multi encodings.


A straight clone of ack, with some visual tweaks, written in Ruby by Daniel Lucraft.


ripgrep is written in Rust and claims to be "faster than everything else".


sift is a search tool written in Go. It claims to be very faster, faster than ag.


spot is a tiny search utility that adapts some of ack's features. It's simple and uses find+grep+awk.

UniversalCodeGrep (ucg)

A fast ack-like search tool that is written in C++ using PCRE and makes use of concurrency.

Indexing tools

Sometimes when you're looking at a large codebase, it makes sense to see everything as a whole. An indexing tool may help you out.


ctags is a program almost as old as time itself. When run against a codebase, ctags indexes various elements of the code, such as variables and functions. This lets your editor or other tools use the tags index to jump quickly to that element.

The most common ctags implementation is Universal Ctags:


Cscope is a developer's tool for browsing source code. Cscope was part of the official AT&T Unix distribution for many years, and has been used to manage projects involving 20 million lines of code. It also can integrate with vim and Emacs.


CodeQuery indexes and queries C, C++, Java and Python source code. It builds upon the databases of cscope and ctags, mentioned above, and provides a nice GUI tool.

Code Search

Russ Cox, the guy that wrote Google's CodeSearch engine, wrote an article about how it worked and released an implementation in Go.


OpenGrok is a fast and usable source code search and cross reference engine. It helps you search, cross-reference and navigate your source tree.


GNU GLOBAL is a source code tagging system that works the same way across diverse environments (emacs, vi, less, bash, web browser, etc). You can locate objects in source files and move there easily. It is similar to ctags or etags but is different from them at the point of independence of any editor.


Beagrep is a combination of a desktop search engine named beagle and grep. Use the search engine first, then use grep on the small subset of possibly matching files, thus it is very fast and useful for code reading in huge source trees.


Hound provides a centralized web front-end to a regex-searchable text index of multiple Git repositories. It was created by engineers at Etsy to handle searching across codebases.


Sourcegraph is a horizontally scalable code search engine that supports regex, symbol search, and the Comby pattern syntax. It also has code navigation supported by a combination of the Language Server Index Format and a ctags-like backend. The core application is open source, but enterprise features such as SSO are available only in a proprietary version of the application.