Thierry Volpiatto edited this page Jan 12, 2017 · 12 revisions

helm-locate (<helm-prefix> l by default) is Helm’s interface to the locate command, which finds files on your system that have been indexed with updatedb.


The exact command for helm-locate can be customized through the variable helm-locate-command. The default value works on most locate versions and variants.

On more recent versions of locate, you may want to use multi-matching with the --regex option, which is not available in older versions:

(setq helm-locate-command "locate %s -e -A --regex %s")

Update: On helm version >=2.4.0 this is now the default.


Execute the helm-locate command, then enter a filename or pattern at the prompt. Some options are below:

Option Description
-b Only use the base name (no directories)
-e Only include files that actually exist
-n Limit number of search results

Example pattern:

emacs -b -e -n 12

Note that adding options at end of pattern is disabling fuzzy matching. You should add the -b option at end of other options to let helm highlight properly the right part (i.e basename) of candidate.

From helm-find-files

In helm-find-files, hit C-x C-f. With a prefix argument, you can choose a locatedb file. With two prefix args the database file will be recreated.

Launch grep

When the search is done, you can search in a specific file or directory with the grep action in the action menu (TAB). You can also launch Helm grep with (C-u) M-g s without switching to the action panel.

Local locatedb database

You can specify a locate database with prefix argument ARG (C-u). Many databases can be used: navigate to and mark them. See helm-locate-with-db.

To create a user specific db, use:

updatedb -l 0 -o dbpath -U directory

where dbpath is a filename matched by helm-locate-db-file-regexp.

Search in a list of projects only

For this, populate the list helm-locate-project-list with a list of projects, then run M-x helm-projects-find-files, helm-locate will search for files only in the database of these projects.

Enable fuzzy matching in locate

The only thing you have to do is:

(setq helm-locate-fuzzy-match t)

Once this is enabled, helm-locate will search on the basename of files, adding automatically the -b flag, so you don’t need to add it. As soon as you add spaces between your patterns multi matching will happen instead of fuzzy, with regexp matching on each pattern (no fuzzy matching of separate pattern), also when switching to multi matching, search is done on the whole path and no more on basename.

When fuzzy matching, candidates are sorted with helm-locate-fuzzy-sort-fn which use by default the helm fuzzy matching default sort fn helm-locate-default-fuzzy-sort-fn, you can customize this if needed.

Other platforms


On Windows, you should use Everything, which works like locate. It is very fast and does not require manual database updates.

To use Everything with helm-locate, you will need the command line tool named es. Be sure to modify the PATH environment variable to include path to the directory that contain es. Also unset helm-locate-fuzzy-match, or Everything will give no results.

When using es on Windows, you may want to use the sorting feature (put the recentest visited files on top) provided by its very last version (>=es, for this you will have to add here the required arguments to es i.e -sort run-count and also notify the Everything database you jumped to some file by running es -inc-run-count file each time you visit a file, to achieve this you can add a function doing this to helm-find-many-files-after-hook.


(setq helm-locate-command "es %s -sort run-count %s")
(defun helm-es-hook ()
  (when (and (equal (assoc-default 'name (helm-get-current-source)) "Locate")
             (string-match "\\`es" helm-locate-command))
    (mapc (lambda (file)
            (call-process "es" nil nil nil
                          "-inc-run-count" (convert-standard-filename file)))
(add-hook 'helm-find-many-files-after-hook 'helm-es-hook)

See Topic and issue #1645 on github for more infos.


To use mdfind, disable helm-locate-fuzzy-match. If it is set to t and mdfind is used, helm-locate won’t show any results.

You can’t perform that action at this time.
You signed in with another tab or window. Reload to refresh your session. You signed out in another tab or window. Reload to refresh your session.
Press h to open a hovercard with more details.