The Silver Searcher

A code searching tool similar to ack, with a focus on speed.




Do you know C? Want to improve ag? I invite you to pair with me.

Whats so great about Ag?

  • It is an order of magnitude faster than ack.
  • It ignores file patterns from your .gitignore and .hgignore.
  • If there are files in your source repo you dont want to search, just add their patterns to a .ignore file. (*cough* *.min.js *cough*)
  • The command name is 33% shorter than ack, and all keys are on the home row!

Ag is quite stable now. Most changes are new features, minor bug fixes, or performance improvements. Its much faster than Ack in my benchmarks:

ack test_blah ~/code/ 104.66s user 4.82s system 99% cpu 1:50.03 total ag test_blah ~/code/ 4.67s user 4.58s system 286% cpu 3.227 total 

Ack and Ag found the same results, but Ag was 34x faster (3.2 seconds vs 110 seconds). My ~/code directory is about 8GB. Thanks to git/hg/ignore, Ag only searched 700MB of that.

There are also graphs of performance across releases.

How is it so fast?

  • Ag uses Pthreads to take advantage of multiple CPU cores and search files in parallel.
  • Files are mmap()ed instead of read into a buffer.
  • Literal string searching uses Boyer-Moore strstr.
  • Regex searching uses PCREs JIT compiler (if Ag is built with PCRE >=8.21).
  • Ag calls pcre_study() before executing the same regex on every file.
  • Instead of calling fnmatch() on every pattern in your ignore files, non-regex patterns are loaded into arrays and binary searched.

Ive written several blog posts showing how Ive improved performance. These include how I added pthreads, wrote my own scandir(), benchmarked every revision to find performance regressions, and profiled with gprof and Valgrind.



brew install the_silver_searcher 


port install the_silver_searcher 


  • Ubuntu >= 13.10 (Saucy) or Debian >= 8 (Jessie)

     apt-get install silversearcher-ag 
  • Fedora 21 and lower

     yum install the_silver_searcher 
  • Fedora 22+

     dnf install the_silver_searcher 
  • RHEL7+

     yum install epel-release.noarch the_silver_searcher 
  • Gentoo

     emerge -a sys-apps/the_silver_searcher 
  • Arch

     pacman -S the_silver_searcher 
  • Slackware

     sbopkg -i the_silver_searcher 
  • openSUSE

     zypper install the_silver_searcher 
  • CentOS

     yum install the_silver_searcher 
  • NixOS/Nix/Nixpkgs

     nix-env -iA silver-searcher 
  • SUSE Linux Enterprise: Follow these simple instructions.


  • FreeBSD

     pkg install the_silver_searcher 
  • OpenBSD/NetBSD

     pkg_add the_silver_searcher 


  • Win32/64

    Unofficial daily builds are available.

  • winget

     winget install The Silver Searcher 


    • This installs a release of ag.exe optimized for Windows.
    • winget is intended to become the default package manager client for Windows.
      As of June 2020, its still in beta, and can be installed using instructions there.
    • The setup script in the Ags winget package installs ag.exe in the first directory that matches one of these criteria:
      1. Over a previous instance of ag.exe from the same origin found in the PATH
      2. In the directory defined in environment variable bindir_%PROCESSOR_ARCHITECTURE%
      3. In the directory defined in environment variable bindir
      4. In the directory defined in environment variable windir
  • Chocolatey

  • MSYS2

     pacman -S mingw-w64-{i686,x86_64}-ag 
  • Cygwin

    Run the relevant setup-*.exe, and select the_silver_searcher in the Utils category.

Building from source

Building master

  1. Install dependencies (Automake, pkg-config, PCRE, LZMA):

    • macOS:

       brew install automake pkg-config pcre xz 


       port install automake pkgconfig pcre xz 
    • Ubuntu/Debian:

       apt-get install -y automake pkg-config libpcre3-dev zlib1g-dev liblzma-dev 
    • Fedora:

       yum -y install pkgconfig automake gcc zlib-devel pcre-devel xz-devel 
    • CentOS:

       yum -y groupinstall Development Tools yum -y install pcre-devel xz-devel zlib-devel 
    • openSUSE:

       zypper source-install --build-deps-only the_silver_searcher 
    • Windows: Its complicated. See this wiki page.

  2. Run the build script (which just runs aclocal, automake, etc):

    On Windows (inside an msys/MinGW shell):

  3. Make install:

Building a release tarball

GPG-signed releases are available here.

Building release tarballs requires the same dependencies, except for automake and pkg-config. Once youve installed the dependencies, just run:

./configure make make install 

You may need to use sudo or run as root for the make install.

Editor Integration


You can use Ag with ack.vim by adding the following line to your .vimrc:

let g:ackprg = ag --nogroup --nocolor --column 


let g:ackprg = ag --vimgrep 

Which has the same effect but will report every match on the line.


You can use ag.el as an Emacs front-end to Ag. See also: helm-ag.


TextMate users can use Ag with my fork of the popular AckMate plugin, which lets you use both Ack and Ag for searching. If you already have AckMate you just want to replace Ack with Ag, move or delete ~/Library/Application Support/TextMate/PlugIns/AckMate.tmplugin/Contents/Resources/ackmate_ack and run ln -s /usr/local/bin/ag ~/Library/Application Support/TextMate/PlugIns/AckMate.tmplugin/Contents/Resources/ackmate_ack

Other stuff you might like

  • Ack - Better than grep. Without Ack, Ag would not exist.
  • ack.vim
  • Exuberant Ctags - Faster than Ag, but it builds an index beforehand. Good for really big codebases.
  • Git-grep - As fast as Ag but only works on git repos.
  • fzf - A command-line fuzzy finder
  • ripgrep
  • Sack - A utility that wraps Ack and Ag. It removes a lot of repetition from searching and opening matching files.

Tell us about you

Find us at the office

Eastmond- Sukel street no. 62, 79540 Hanga Roa, Easter Island

Give us a ring

Jaquelinee Wrate
+74 201 709 645
Mon - Fri, 9:00-15:00

Reach out