This add-in is for anyone who wants to use Regular Expressions to find and replace in Visual Studio, but doesn't want to use the strange Regular Expression syntax of the built-in dialog. This add-in provides a new dialog that uses .NET's Regular Expressions to find and replace.
I worked on this a couple of years ago, so I don't remember everything that motivated me to do it. I was tired of the crippled version of Regular Expressions available within the Visual Studio IDE. I found this article about a Visual Studio add-in that sounded good enough, but it didn't work with Visual Studio 2005. My add-in is partly based on that add-in, with several bug fixes and additional features.
The project has now been updated for use in Visual Studio 2008.
Using the Add-In
If you just want to use the add-in, download the add-in files and copy them to your "C:\<user folder>\Visual Studio 2008\AddIns" directory. If you want to mess around with the source (or fix any glaring bugs), download the source and run the project.
To debug the project, move "RegexFindAndReplace - For Testing.AddIn" to "C:\<user folder>\Visual Studio 2008\Addins".
You will also need to update the section that looks like this in RegexFindAndReplace.csproj:
<Content Include="C:\<user folder>
\Visual Studio 2008\Addins\RegexFindAndReplace - For Testing.AddIn">
<Link>RegexFindAndReplace - For Testing.AddIn</Link>
Within "RegexFindAndReplace - For Testing.AddIn", you need to update this section to point to the location of the project:
The following Debug project settings also need to be updated:
- Start external program: C:\Program Files\Microsoft Visual Studio 9.0\Common7\IDE\devenv.exe
- Command line arguments: /resetaddin RegexFindAndReplace.Connect
- Working directory: C:\Program Files\Microsoft Visual Studio 9.0\Common7\IDE\
Once everything is installed, you will find a new entry in the Edit|Find and Replace menu:
There is also a keyboard shortcut of Ctrl+Shift+X, for those of you who avoid the mouse when you can.
Points of Interest
This add-in provides most of the functionality as the built-in Find and Replace dialog, with a few additional options. In the Find in Files mode, the results are printed to the Output window:
To the right of the Find or Replace text boxes, there is a drop-down menu that has several common constructs used in Regular Expressions or replacement strings. The captured sub-expressions menu lists all of the back references available, and when one is selected, the corresponding expression is highlighted in blue in the text box:
I have had a lot of fun working on this; please contact me about feature requests or bugs, and I will do my best to make sure this is as useful as possible.
Each file that is searched for matches is read into memory; this means that files too large to fit into memory will not be able to be searched with this dialog. The reason for this is that regular expressions can span more than one line. In the future, I may add a check for newline characters in the regular expression to see if the file can be processed one line at a time.
- 13 Jun 2008
- 28 July 2008
- Improved algorithm for processing files in Find All and Replace All modes
- Added "Stop" button to enable cancelling a Find All or Replace All operation
- 5 March 2009
- Updated the article and project for Visual Studio 2008
- Fixed the "Object reference not set to an instance of an object." error message with certain types of Visual Studio projects
- Fixed the way the dialog window is displayed
- 8 October 2009
- Added better support for web projects with code-behind files
- Fixed issue with file encoding with Replace All
- 12 October 2009
- Added use of the
CollapsibleGroupBox class described in this article
I am a software developer currently working in Salt Lake City, Utah. I work primarily with C# for my job, but I mess around with C, Perl, and Windows PowerShell for fun.