Recoll: Advanced Search Tool For Linux

Searching your files can be an easy, or difficult task, depending on how you organize your files and documents. If you are constantly searching high and low for that particular file and your file manager is not helping you out with its terrible search function, you probably need a more advanced search tool.

Recoll is a text search tool for Unix and Linux and can find keywords inside documents as well as file names. This make it a perfect tool for you to search and retrieve your files and documents quickly, whenever you need it.

The installation is easy. Recoll is available in the Ubuntu repository, so you can install it via the Ubuntu Software Center, click here, or simply type the following command in the terminal:

sudo apt-get install recoll

Note: The Recoll version in the repository is not up to date. To install the latest version of Recoll:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:recoll-backports/recoll-1.15-on
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install recoll

For other distros, you can check out its download page for the installation package for each distro.

On the first run, it will prompt you to index your Home directory. To do so, simply click the “Start Indexing now” button. You can also click on the “Indexing Configuration” or “Indexing Schedule” option for more advanced settings.


Depending on the size of your hard disk and the number of files you have, the indexing process can take a long time. Luckily, you only need to do the full indexing on the first run and you can get it to automatically update its index when there is any file changes in your system.

Once the indexing is complete, you can then type the query and perform a search for the term. The good thing about Recoll is that it searches the content of the file as well as the filename. The returned results are ranked according their relevancy to the term and a snippet of the matched content is shown together with the result.


For each search result, it comes with a “Preview” link where you can click to open the result in its own viewer. Alternatively, you can also choose to open the file with the default application.

Before you carry out your search, you can choose whether the search result should match “Any term”, “All terms”, “File name” or “Query language”. You can also sort the results according to their categories, like media, message, presentation etc.

Advanced Search

Click the first button on the menu bar and it will open a new “Advanced Search” window. From here, you will be able to add clauses for the search. For example, you can specify a clause that search author of name “stephen king”, and a file name of “nightmare”. You can also determine whether the search should satisfy all the clauses or any of them.


The Filter tab allows you to filter the dates, file sizes and file types.



There are two main configuration sections for Recoll: Indexing Configuration and Indexing Schedule. Indexing configuration allows you to choose which folder(s) to index and which file paths to skip.


The Indexing Schedule is where you configure how and when Recoll should update its index. There are two setup that you can choose from: Cron or startup daemon. With the cron option, you can schedule Recoll to run at regular interval. With the startup daemon, Recoll’s index daemon will autostart during boot up and do a real-time indexing when it detects a file change.



There is no lack of desktop indexing tool for Linux. There is the tracker that can run in the background and Beagle which has not been updated since 2010. Recoll provides an alternative solution, but with an added advantage that it is being actively developed and it provides additional addon for Unity desktop (recoll-lens) and Firefox (extension for indexing visited webpages). If you need a comprehensive desktop searching tool, Recoll is worth trying out.


Image credit: Filing cabinet close up on personal by BigStockPhoto


Damien Oh started writing tech articles since 2007 and has over 10 years of experience in the tech industry. He is proficient in Windows, Linux, Mac, Android and iOS, and worked as a part time WordPress Developer. He is currently the owner and Editor-in-Chief of Make Tech Easier.

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