GNU parallel

GNU parallel is a command-line driven utility for Linux and other Unix-like operating systems which allows the user to execute shell scripts or commands in parallel. GNU parallel is free software, written by Ole Tange in Perl. It is available under the terms of GPLv3.[2]

Developer(s)GNU Project
Stable release
20191122[1] / 22 November 2019 (2019-11-22)
Written inPerl
Operating systemGNU


The most common usage is to replace the shell loop, for example

    for x in `cat list` ; do 
        do_something "$x"
    done | process_output

to the form of

    cat list | parallel do_something | process_output

where the file list contains arguments for do_something and where process_output may be empty.

Scripts using parallel are often easier to read than scripts using pexec.

The program parallel features also

  • grouping of standard output and standard error so the output of the parallel running jobs do not run together;
  • retaining the order of output to remain the same order as input;
  • dealing nicely with filenames containing special characters such as space, single quote, double quote, ampersand, and UTF-8 encoded characters;

By default, parallel runs as many jobs in parallel as there are CPU cores.


 find . -name "*.foo" | parallel grep bar

The above is the parallel equivalent to:

 find . -name "*.foo" -exec grep bar {} +

This searches in all files in the current directory and its subdirectories whose name end in .foo for occurrences of the string bar. The parallel command will work as expected unless a file name contains a newline. In order to avoid this limitation one may use:

 find . -name "*.foo" -print0 | parallel -0 grep bar

The above command uses the null character to delimit file names.

 find . -name "*.foo" | parallel -X mv {} /tmp/trash

The above command uses {} to tell parallel to replace {} with the argument list.

 find . -maxdepth 1 -type f -name "*.ogg" | parallel -X -r cp -v -p {} /home/media

The command above does the same as:

 cp -v -p *.ogg /home/media

However, the former command which uses find/parallel/cp is more resource efficient and will not halt with an error if the expansion of *.ogg is too large for the shell.

See also


  1. Tange, Ole (22 Nov 2019). "GNU Parallel 20191122 ('Quantum Supremacy') released [stable]". parallel (Mailing list).
  2. "GNU Parallel".
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