Needle in a Haystack

What Next?

In this tutorial you have learned why and how to use a tool that automatically scans as many ODF or text files you want, to find any given string. Cool, but why stop here?

The first thing you can do is improve odfgrep as you please. To work on non-writeable media, for example, you can modify it to create a temporary, complete copy of all the folders to examine in another folder. Alternatively, you can replace the test in Listing 1 (line 11) with another on the basis of the file command: It would be more complicated, but it would recognize ODF files no matter what their extension.

Another fun and productive line of work is using odfgrep as a model to build similar tools. A good candidate would be an odfdiff script that prints out the differences between two ODF documents.

The most important take-home lesson, however, is this: ODF is a format for sophisticated text documents, presentations, and spreadsheets that is very easy to work with and process in very efficient ways. For more proof of this, visit my little "ODF scripting" collection [5], and if you know about other scripts like those, or write new ones, please let me know!

The Author

Marco Fioretti ( is a freelance author, trainer, and researcher based in Rome, Italy. He has been working with free/open source software since 1995 and on open digital standards since 2005. Marco also is a board member of the Free Knowledge Institute (

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