Blazing fast grep alternative in Bourne shell


I’ve always relied on Perl for sysadmin tasks, but I’ve been trying to get better at Bourne shell scripting. One operation I did constantly in Perl was searching for substrings:

#!/usr/bin/env perl
use strict;
use warnings;
my $string = "Zettai ryouiki";
my $sub    = "ryouiki";
print "Tousaka!" if ($line =~ m/substring/);

Until now I’d just been using grep, like a gentleman. If you’re network–bound and have a limited number of comparisons, it’s fine. Otherwise, it’s slow enough that even an i5 MacBook Air takes a moment between each operation.

set -e
_string="Zettai ryouiki"
[ `echo ${_string} | grep '${_sub}'` ] && echo "Tousaka!"

We can do better. An alternative is this neat trick, proposed by Matt Day on Stack Overflow:

if test "${_string#*$_sub}" != "${_string}"; then
    echo "Tousaka!"

No pipes, no grep, just speed. Sugoi!

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Ruben Schade is a technical writer and infrastructure architect in Sydney, Australia who refers to himself in the third person. Hi!

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