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Posted 12 Jun 2008


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.NET Regular Expressions Find and Replace Add-In for Visual Studio 2008

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4.91/5 (36 votes)
12 Oct 2009CPOL3 min read
A .NET Regular Expressions Find and Replace add-in for Visual Studio 2008


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:

<Assembly><project directory>\RegexFindAndReplace\bin\RegexFindAndReplace.dll</Assembly>

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
    • Original article posted
  • 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


This article, along with any associated source code and files, is licensed under The Code Project Open License (CPOL)


About the Author

Software Developer
United States United States
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.

Comments and Discussions

GeneralMy vote of 5 Pin
VJ Reddy7-May-12 8:13
MemberVJ Reddy7-May-12 8:13 
GeneralMy vote of 5 Pin
ProEnggSoft7-Mar-12 19:46
MemberProEnggSoft7-Mar-12 19:46 
QuestionThanks! Very helpful tool Pin
Thomas.Mueller629-Nov-11 2:25
MemberThomas.Mueller629-Nov-11 2:25 
GeneralRegex bugs Pin
nvila14-Sep-10 10:34
Membernvila14-Sep-10 10:34 
GeneralRe: Regex bugs Pin
jhillman15-Sep-10 6:29
Memberjhillman15-Sep-10 6:29 
GeneralRe: Regex bugs Pin
khuongdp26-Jan-11 10:37
Memberkhuongdp26-Jan-11 10:37 
GeneralRe: Regex bugs Pin
jhillman26-Jan-11 11:37
Memberjhillman26-Jan-11 11:37 
GeneralMy vote of 5 Pin
msmits19-Aug-10 4:06
Membermsmits19-Aug-10 4:06 
QuestionVS2010? Pin
digger6916-Apr-10 11:54
Memberdigger6916-Apr-10 11:54 
AnswerRe: VS2010? Pin
jhillman16-Apr-10 12:21
Memberjhillman16-Apr-10 12:21 
GeneralRe: VS2010? Pin
digger6916-Apr-10 12:28
Memberdigger6916-Apr-10 12:28 
GeneralRe: VS2010? Pin
jhillman16-Apr-10 13:12
Memberjhillman16-Apr-10 13:12 
GeneralRe: VS2010? Pin
digger6916-Apr-10 13:15
Memberdigger6916-Apr-10 13:15 
GeneralRe: VS2010? [modified] Pin
digger699-Nov-10 14:36
Memberdigger699-Nov-10 14:36 
GeneralRe: VS2010? Pin
jhillman10-Nov-10 4:46
Memberjhillman10-Nov-10 4:46 
Generaldifference between "Replace" & "Replace All" Pin
Vivek Athalye9-Oct-09 3:08
MemberVivek Athalye9-Oct-09 3:08 
GeneralRe: difference between "Replace" & "Replace All" Pin
jhillman9-Oct-09 7:33
Memberjhillman9-Oct-09 7:33 
GeneralRe: difference between "Replace" & "Replace All" Pin
Vivek Athalye11-Oct-09 22:04
MemberVivek Athalye11-Oct-09 22:04 
GeneralRe: difference between "Replace" & "Replace All" Pin
jhillman13-Oct-09 7:59
Memberjhillman13-Oct-09 7:59 
Generalproblem in searching text in .cs (code behind) files Pin
Vivek Athalye6-Oct-09 5:39
MemberVivek Athalye6-Oct-09 5:39 
GeneralRe: problem in searching text in .cs (code behind) files Pin
jhillman6-Oct-09 6:59
Memberjhillman6-Oct-09 6:59 
GeneralRe: problem in searching text in .cs (code behind) files Pin
Vivek Athalye9-Oct-09 1:55
MemberVivek Athalye9-Oct-09 1:55 
GeneralRe: problem in searching text in .cs (code behind) files Pin
jhillman9-Oct-09 6:01
Memberjhillman9-Oct-09 6:01 
GeneralRe: problem in searching text in .cs (code behind) files Pin
Vivek Athalye21-Oct-09 23:44
MemberVivek Athalye21-Oct-09 23:44 
GeneralRe: problem in searching text in .cs (code behind) files Pin
jhillman26-Oct-09 11:10
Memberjhillman26-Oct-09 11:10 

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