The strings command returns each string of printable characters (ASCII) in files. Its main uses are to determine the contents of and to extract text from binary files (i.e., non-text files). From the Shell manual: "find the printable strings in a object, or other binary, file".

Strings can be used to extract character information and string of a given length from text file(s). When used without any options, strings displays all strings that are at least four characters in length in the files whose names are supplied as arguments (i.e., input data). Strings that are on separate lines in the input files are shown on separate lines on the screen, and an attempt is made to display all strings found on a single line in a file on a single line on the screen (although there may be a carryover to subsequent lines in the event that numerous strings are found on a single line). strings looks in all sections of the object files except the (__TEXT,__text) section.

strings [options] file_name(s)


  • -n: Specify the minimum string length, where the number argument is a positive decimal integer. The default is 4.
  • -: This option causes strings to look for strings in all bytes of the files (the default for non-object files).
  • --: This option causes strings to treat all the following arguments as files.
  • -a: This option causes strings to look for strings in all sections of the object file (including the (__TEXT,__text) section.