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Finding Files Fast

Woods, James A.
Technical Report Identifier: CSD-83-148
January 15, 1983

Abstract: A fast filename search facility for UNIX is presented. It consolidates two data compression methods with a novel string search technique to rapidly locate arbitrary files. The code, integrated into the standard find utility, consults a preprocessed database, regenerated daily. This contrasts with the usual mechanism of matching search keys against candidate items generated on-the-fly from a scattered directory structure. The pathname database is an incrementally-encoded lexicographically sorted list (sometimes referred to as a "front-compressed" file) which is also subjected to common bigram coding to effect further space reduction. The storage savings are a factor of five to six over the standard ascii representation. The list is scanned using a modified linear search specially tailored to the incremental encoding; typical "user time" required by this algorithm is 40%-50% less than with naive search.