A simple batch script to dump the contents of the folder and its subfolders recursively

Published on Friday, March 2, 2012

This topic might seem too minor for a blog post. You can argue that it's covered by a simple call to a dir /s command. Well, that's true unless you need to perform some actions with each line in the list. In this case it could be tricky if you do not use BATCH files on a daily basis.

Imagine you need to dump the file paths in a folder and its subfolders to a plain list. Besides, you'd like to replace the absolute path prefix with UNC share prefix, because each path contains a shared folder and each file will be accessible from inside the network. So, here goes the script:

@echo off
set _from=*repo
set _to=\\server\repo
FOR /F "tokens=*" %%G IN ('dir /s /b /a:-D /o:-D') DO (CALL :replace %%G) >> files.txt
GOTO :eof

 set _str=%1
 call set _result=%%_str:%_from%=%_to%%%
 echo %_result%
GOTO :eof

Let’s start from the FOR loop. This version of the command loops through the output of another command, in this case, dir. Essentially, we ask dir to run recursively (/s), ignore directories (/a:-D), sort by date/time, newest first (/o:-D) and output just the basic information (/b). And the FOR command works on top of this, iterating all lines of dir output (tokens=*), calling a subroutine :replace for each line and streaming the final result into files.txt.

The subroutine does a very simple thing – it replaces one part of the string with another. Let's step through it anyway. First, it gets the input parameter (%1) and saves it into _str variable. I suppose %1 could be used as is in the expression below, but the number of % signs drives me crazy even without it. The next line is the most important – it does the actual replacement job. I'll try to explain all these % signs: the variable inside the expression must be wrapped with % (like _from and _to); the expression itself should go between % and % as if it's a variable itself. And the outermost pair of % is there for escaping purpose, I suppose – you will avoid it if you use just string literals for tokens in expression. Note also the usage of the CALL SET statement. Finally, the last line of the subroutine echoes the result.

There's one last point worth attention. The _from variable, which represents the token to replace, contains a * sign. It means replace 'repo' and everything before it in the replace expression.

The best resource I found on the topic is SS64.