Filtering, includes and excludes

Rclone has a sophisticated set of include and exclude rules. Some of these are based on patterns and some on other things like file size.

The filters are applied for the copy, sync, move, ls, lsl, md5sum, sha1sum, size, delete and check operations. Note that purge does not obey the filters.

Each path as it passes through rclone is matched against the include and exclude rules like --include, --exclude, --include-from, --exclude-from, --filter, or --filter-from. The simplest way to try them out is using the ls command, or --dry-run together with -v.

Patterns

The patterns used to match files for inclusion or exclusion are based on “file globs” as used by the unix shell.

If the pattern starts with a / then it only matches at the top level of the directory tree, relative to the root of the remote (not necessarily the root of the local drive). If it doesn’t start with / then it is matched starting at the end of the path, but it will only match a complete path element:

file.jpg  - matches "file.jpg"
          - matches "directory/file.jpg"
          - doesn't match "afile.jpg"
          - doesn't match "directory/afile.jpg"
/file.jpg - matches "file.jpg" in the root directory of the remote
          - doesn't match "afile.jpg"
          - doesn't match "directory/file.jpg"

Important Note that you must use / in patterns and not \ even if running on Windows.

A * matches anything but not a /.

*.jpg  - matches "file.jpg"
       - matches "directory/file.jpg"
       - doesn't match "file.jpg/something"

Use ** to match anything, including slashes (/).

dir/** - matches "dir/file.jpg"
       - matches "dir/dir1/dir2/file.jpg"
       - doesn't match "directory/file.jpg"
       - doesn't match "adir/file.jpg"

A ? matches any character except a slash /.

l?ss  - matches "less"
      - matches "lass"
      - doesn't match "floss"

A [ and ] together make a a character class, such as [a-z] or [aeiou] or [[:alpha:]]. See the go regexp docs for more info on these.

h[ae]llo - matches "hello"
         - matches "hallo"
         - doesn't match "hullo"

A { and } define a choice between elements. It should contain a comma seperated list of patterns, any of which might match. These patterns can contain wildcards.

{one,two}_potato - matches "one_potato"
                 - matches "two_potato"
                 - doesn't match "three_potato"
                 - doesn't match "_potato"

Special characters can be escaped with a \ before them.

\*.jpg       - matches "*.jpg"
\\.jpg       - matches "\.jpg"
\[one\].jpg  - matches "[one].jpg"

Note also that rclone filter globs can only be used in one of the filter command line flags, not in the specification of the remote, so rclone copy "remote:dir*.jpg" /path/to/dir won’t work - what is required is rclone --include "*.jpg" copy remote:dir /path/to/dir

Directories

Rclone keeps track of directories that could match any file patterns.

Eg if you add the include rule

/a/*.jpg

Rclone will synthesize the directory include rule

/a/

If you put any rules which end in / then it will only match directories.

Directory matches are only used to optimise directory access patterns - you must still match the files that you want to match. Directory matches won’t optimise anything on bucket based remotes (eg s3, swift, google compute storage, b2) which don’t have a concept of directory.

Differences between rsync and rclone patterns

Rclone implements bash style {a,b,c} glob matching which rsync doesn’t.

Rclone always does a wildcard match so \ must always escape a \.

How the rules are used

Rclone maintains a combined list of include rules and exclude rules.

Each file is matched in order, starting from the top, against the rule in the list until it finds a match. The file is then included or excluded according to the rule type.

If the matcher fails to find a match after testing against all the entries in the list then the path is included.

For example given the following rules, + being include, - being exclude,

- secret*.jpg
+ *.jpg
+ *.png
+ file2.avi
- *

This would include

  • file1.jpg
  • file3.png
  • file2.avi

This would exclude

  • secret17.jpg
  • non *.jpg and *.png

A similar process is done on directory entries before recursing into them. This only works on remotes which have a concept of directory (Eg local, google drive, onedrive, amazon drive) and not on bucket based remotes (eg s3, swift, google compute storage, b2).

Adding filtering rules

Filtering rules are added with the following command line flags.

Repeating options

You can repeat the following options to add more than one rule of that type.

  • --include
  • --include-from
  • --exclude
  • --exclude-from
  • --filter
  • --filter-from

Note that all the options of the same type are processed together in the order above, regardless of what order they were placed on the command line.

So all --include options are processed first in the order they appeared on the command line, then all --include-from options etc.

To mix up the order includes and excludes, the --filter flag can be used.

--exclude - Exclude files matching pattern

Add a single exclude rule with --exclude.

This flag can be repeated. See above for the order the flags are processed in.

Eg --exclude *.bak to exclude all bak files from the sync.

--exclude-from - Read exclude patterns from file

Add exclude rules from a file.

This flag can be repeated. See above for the order the flags are processed in.

Prepare a file like this exclude-file.txt

# a sample exclude rule file
*.bak
file2.jpg

Then use as --exclude-from exclude-file.txt. This will sync all files except those ending in bak and file2.jpg.

This is useful if you have a lot of rules.

--include - Include files matching pattern

Add a single include rule with --include.

This flag can be repeated. See above for the order the flags are processed in.

Eg --include *.{png,jpg} to include all png and jpg files in the backup and no others.

This adds an implicit --exclude * at the very end of the filter list. This means you can mix --include and --include-from with the other filters (eg --exclude) but you must include all the files you want in the include statement. If this doesn’t provide enough flexibility then you must use --filter-from.

--include-from - Read include patterns from file

Add include rules from a file.

This flag can be repeated. See above for the order the flags are processed in.

Prepare a file like this include-file.txt

# a sample include rule file
*.jpg
*.png
file2.avi

Then use as --include-from include-file.txt. This will sync all jpg, png files and file2.avi.

This is useful if you have a lot of rules.

This adds an implicit --exclude * at the very end of the filter list. This means you can mix --include and --include-from with the other filters (eg --exclude) but you must include all the files you want in the include statement. If this doesn’t provide enough flexibility then you must use --filter-from.

--filter - Add a file-filtering rule

This can be used to add a single include or exclude rule. Include rules start with + and exclude rules start with -. A special rule called ! can be used to clear the existing rules.

This flag can be repeated. See above for the order the flags are processed in.

Eg --filter "- *.bak" to exclude all bak files from the sync.

--filter-from - Read filtering patterns from a file

Add include/exclude rules from a file.

This flag can be repeated. See above for the order the flags are processed in.

Prepare a file like this filter-file.txt

# a sample exclude rule file
- secret*.jpg
+ *.jpg
+ *.png
+ file2.avi
# exclude everything else
- *

Then use as --filter-from filter-file.txt. The rules are processed in the order that they are defined.

This example will include all jpg and png files, exclude any files matching secret*.jpg and include file2.avi. Everything else will be excluded from the sync.

--files-from - Read list of source-file names

This reads a list of file names from the file passed in and only these files are transferred. The filtering rules are ignored completely if you use this option.

This option can be repeated to read from more than one file. These are read in the order that they are placed on the command line.

Prepare a file like this files-from.txt

# comment
file1.jpg
file2.jpg

Then use as --files-from files-from.txt. This will only transfer file1.jpg and file2.jpg providing they exist.

For example, let’s say you had a few files you want to back up regularly with these absolute paths:

/home/user1/important
/home/user1/dir/file
/home/user2/stuff

To copy these you’d find a common subdirectory - in this case /home and put the remaining files in files-from.txt with or without leading /, eg

user1/important
user1/dir/file
user2/stuff

You could then copy these to a remote like this

rclone copy --files-from files-from.txt /home remote:backup

The 3 files will arrive in remote:backup with the paths as in the files-from.txt.

You could of course choose / as the root too in which case your files-from.txt might look like this.

/home/user1/important
/home/user1/dir/file
/home/user2/stuff

And you would transfer it like this

rclone copy --files-from files-from.txt / remote:backup

In this case there will be an extra home directory on the remote.

--min-size - Don’t transfer any file smaller than this

This option controls the minimum size file which will be transferred. This defaults to kBytes but a suffix of k, M, or G can be used.

For example --min-size 50k means no files smaller than 50kByte will be transferred.

--max-size - Don’t transfer any file larger than this

This option controls the maximum size file which will be transferred. This defaults to kBytes but a suffix of k, M, or G can be used.

For example --max-size 1G means no files larger than 1GByte will be transferred.

--max-age - Don’t transfer any file older than this

This option controls the maximum age of files to transfer. Give in seconds or with a suffix of:

  • ms - Milliseconds
  • s - Seconds
  • m - Minutes
  • h - Hours
  • d - Days
  • w - Weeks
  • M - Months
  • y - Years

For example --max-age 2d means no files older than 2 days will be transferred.

--min-age - Don’t transfer any file younger than this

This option controls the minimum age of files to transfer. Give in seconds or with a suffix (see --max-age for list of suffixes)

For example --min-age 2d means no files younger than 2 days will be transferred.

--delete-excluded - Delete files on dest excluded from sync

Important this flag is dangerous - use with --dry-run and -v first.

When doing rclone sync this will delete any files which are excluded from the sync on the destination.

If for example you did a sync from A to B without the --min-size 50k flag

rclone sync A: B:

Then you repeated it like this with the --delete-excluded

rclone --min-size 50k --delete-excluded sync A: B:

This would delete all files on B which are less than 50 kBytes as these are now excluded from the sync.

Always test first with --dry-run and -v before using this flag.

--dump-filters - dump the filters to the output

This dumps the defined filters to the output as regular expressions.

Useful for debugging.

Quoting shell metacharacters

The examples above may not work verbatim in your shell as they have shell metacharacters in them (eg *), and may require quoting.

Eg linux, OSX

  • --include \*.jpg
  • --include '*.jpg'
  • --include='*.jpg'

In Windows the expansion is done by the command not the shell so this should work fine

  • --include *.jpg

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