git – Search code inside a Github project

git – Search code inside a Github project

Update Dec. 2021: search has been improved again, with Search for an exact string, with support for substring matches and special characters, or regexps.


But only on, and still in beta (waitlist applies)

Update January 2013: a brand new search has arrived!, based on

A search for stat within the ruby repo will be expressed as stat repo:ruby/ruby, and will now just workTM.
(the repo name is not case sensitive: test repo:wordpress/wordpress returns the same as test repo:Wordpress/Wordpress)


Will give:


And you have many other examples of search, based on followers, or on forks, or…

Update July 2012 (old days of Lucene search and poor code indexing, combined with broken GUI, kept here for archive):

The search (based on SolrQuerySyntax) is now more permissive and the dreaded Invalid search query. Try quoting it. is gone when using the default search selector Everything:)

(I suppose we can all than Tim Pease, which had in one of his objectives hacking on improved search experiences for all GitHub properties, and I did mention this Stack Overflow question at the time 😉 )

Here is an illustration of a grep within the ruby code: it will looks for repos and users, but also for what I wanted to search in the first place: the code!


Initial answer and illustration of the former issue (Sept. 2012 => March 2012)

You can use the advanced search GitHub form:

  • Choose Code, Repositories or Users from the drop-down and
  • use the corresponding prefixes listed for that search type.

For instance, Use the repo:username/repo-name directive to limit the search to a code repository.
The initial Advanced Search page includes the section:

Code Search:

The Code search will look through all of the code publicly hosted on GitHub. You can also filter by :

  • the language language:
  • the repository name (including the username) repo:
  • the file path path:

So if you select the Code search selector, then your query grepping for a text within a repo will work:


What is incredibly unhelpful from GitHub is that:

  • if you forget to put the right search selector (here Code), you will get an error message:
    Invalid search query. Try quoting it.


  • the error message doesnt help you at all.
    No amount of quoting it will get you out of this error.

  • once you get that error message, you dont get the sections reminding you of the right association between the search selectors (Repositories, Users or Language) and the (right) search filters (here repo:).
    Any further attempt you do wont display those associations (selectors-filters) back. Only the error message you see above…
    The only way to get back those arrays is by clicking the Advance Search icon:


  • the Everything search selector, which is the default, is actually the wrong one for all of the search filters! Except language:
    (You could imagine/assume that Everything would help you to pick whatever search selector actually works with the search filter repo:, but nope. That would be too easy)

  • you cannot specify the search selector you want through the Advance Search field alone!
    (but you can for language:, even though Search Language is another combo box just below the Search for type one…)


So, the users experience usually is as follows:

  • you click Advanced Search, glance over those sections of filters, and notice one you want to use: repo:
  • you make a first advanced search repo:jruby/jruby stat, but with the default Search selector Everything
    => FAIL! (and the arrays displaying the association Selectors-Filters is gone)
  • you notice that Search for selector thingy, select the first choice Repositories (Dah! I want to search within repositories…)
    => FAIL!
  • dejected, you select the next choice of selectors (here, Users), without even looking at said selector, just to give it one more try…
    => FAIL!
  • Screw this, GitHub search is broken! Im outta here!

    (GitHub advanced search is actually not broken. Only their GUI is…)

So, to recap, if you want to grep for something inside a Github projects code, as the OP Ben Humphreys, dont forget to select the Code search selector…

To seach within a repository, add the URL parametes /search?q=search_terms at the root of the repo, for example:


In the above example, it returns 2 results in Code and 160 results in Issues.

git – Search code inside a Github project

Recent private repositories have a search field for searching through that repo.


Bafflingly, it looks like this functionality is not available to public repositories, though.

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