Do… For…

I’m always in need of the a for…in…do batch command but always found
the decription provided overly complext, Powershell does it really well but
again is complex (for me at least). I found this article and it mader a lot of



The very useful “for…in…do” statement is discussed
Computers are very good at doing the same thing over and over. The command
line contains a powerful and versatile method for carrying out this type of
operation. With this method, you can automate many time-consuming tasks. The
basic statement is of the form: for {each
in {a collection of items}
do {command} (For those who persist in calling
the command line DOS, note that the 32-bit version of the “For” statement is
much more powerful than the old 16-bit DOS version.)
A single-letter replaceable variable is used to represent each item as the
command steps through the the collection (called a “set”). Note that, unlike
most of Windows, variables are case-dependent. Thus “a” and “A” are two
different variables. The variable has no significance outside the “For”
statement. I will be using X throughout the discussion but any letter will do.
(In principle, certain non-alphanumeric characters can also be used but that
seems like a bad idea to me.) The variable letter is preceded with a single
percent sign when using the command line directly or double percent signs in a
batch file. Thus the statement in a batch file looks like this: for %%X in
(set) do (command)
What makes the “For” statement so
powerful is the variety of objects that can be put in the set of things that the
command iterates through, the availability of wildcards, and the capability for
parsing files and command output. A number of switches or modifiers are
available to help define the type of items in the set. Table I lists the
switches. They are listed in upper case for clarity but are not case-sensitive.

Table I. Modifying switches used with FOR
Switch Function
/D Indicates that the set contains directories.
/R Causes the command to be executed recursively through the sub-directories of
an indicated parent directory
/L Loops through a command using starting, stepping, and ending parameters
indicated in the set.
/F Parses files or command output in a variety of ways

I will consider a number of examples that illustrate the use of “For” and its

Simple iteration through a list

The set of things that are to used can be listed explicitly. For example, the
set could be a list of files: for %%X in (file1 file2 file3) do
(Care must be taken to use correct paths when doing file
operations.) A different example where the set items are strings is: For
%%X in (eenie meenie miney moe) do (echo %%X)
Wildcards can be also be
used to denote a file set. For example: for %%X in (*.jpg) do
This will carry out the command on all files in the
working directory with extension “jpg”. This process can be carried further by
using several members in the set. For example to carry out a command on more
than one file type use: for %%X in (*.jpg *.gif *.png *.bmp) do command

Looping through a series of values

The well known action of stepping through a series of values that was discussed in connection with “if” and
“Goto” statements is succinctly done with the switch /l (This switch is an
“ell”, not a “one”) . The statement has the form: for /l %%X in
(start, step, end) do command
The set consists of
integers defining the initial value of X, the amount to increment (or decrement)
X in each step, and the final value for X when the process will stop. On the previous page, I gave an example batch file that
listed all the numbers from 1 to 99. If we use a “For” statement, that task can
be accomplished with one line:for /l %%X in (1,1,99) do (echo %%X >>
The numbers in the set mean that the initial value of X is
1, X is then increased by 1 in each iteration, and the final value of X is

Working with directories

If you wish to use directories in the variable set, use the switch /d. The
form of the command is for /d %%X in (directorySet) do
An example that would list all the directories (but not
sub-directories) on the C: drive is for /d %%X in (C:\*) do echo %%X

Recursing through sub-directories

If you want a command to apply to the sub-directories as well as a parent
directory, use the switch /r. Then the command has the form: for /r
[parent directory] %%X in (set) do command
Note that you can designate the top directory in the tree that you want
to work with. This gets around the often cumbersome problem of taking into
account which is the working directory for the command shell. For example the
statement: for /r C:\pictures %%X in (*.jpg) do (echo %%X >>
will list all the jpg files in the directory C:\pictures
and its sub-directories. Of course, a “dir” command can do the same thing but
this example illustrates this particular command.

Parsing text files, strings, and command output

Now we come to a truly powerful switch that was not even dreamed of back in
the DOS days of yore. The switch /f takes us into advanced territory so I can
only indicate the many aspects of its application. Things become rather complex
so those who are interested should consult programming books or the Microsoft documentation.
However, here is a brief sketch of what’s involved.

This version of the “For” command allows you to examine and parse text from
files, strings, and command output. It has the form for /f
[options] %%X in (source) do command
are the text matching criteria and “source” is where the text is to be found.
One of the interesting applications is to analyze the output of a command or
commands and to take further action based on what the initial output

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