How to Find and Replace All Instances of Text in Visual Studio Code Editor

Visual Studio Code (VS Code) is a popular open-source code editor that allows developers to edit and debug code. One of the handy features of VS Code is the ability to find and replace text across multiple files in a project. This can save a lot of time compared to manually searching for and replacing text in individual files.

In this comprehensive guide, we will cover everything you need to know about finding and replacing text in VS Code, including:

Prerequisites

To follow along with this guide, you’ll need:

  • Visual Studio Code installed on your computer
  • A project opened in VS Code

Accessing Find and Replace

There are a few ways to access the Find and Replace tool in VS Code:

  • Keyboard shortcut: Press Ctrl+Shift+H (Windows/Linux) or Cmd+Shift+H (Mac)
  • Menu bar: Go to Edit > Replace in Files
  • Command palette: Press Ctrl+Shift+P (Windows/Linux) or Cmd+Shift+P (Mac) to open the Command Palette and type replace

Finding Text

To find text across multiple files:

  1. Open the Find and Replace tool using one of the methods above
  2. In the search box at the top, type the text you want to find
  3. By default, it will search across all files in the current workspace. Click the file icon on the left to narrow down to specific files or folders.
  4. Click Find or press Enter to start the search
  5. Matching results will appear in the results panel at the bottom
    • Click on a result to jump to that line in the code

Replacing Text

To replace text across multiple files:

  1. Follow the steps above to open the Find and Replace tool and enter a search query
  2. In the replace box below the search box, type the text you want to replace the search results with
  3. Make sure the appropriate files are selected in the left sidebar
  4. Click Replace All or press Alt+R to replace all occurrences
    • Or click Replace to replace matches one by one
  5. A dialog will appear showing you how many replacements were made across how many files
  6. Click Preview changes to open a comparison view showing all text replacements
    • Review the changes and click Apply to commit them

Useful Options

The Find and Replace tool offers some useful options to customize your search:

  • Match Case: Search will be case-sensitive
  • Match Whole Word: Will only match whole word occurrences, not within words
  • Use Regular Expression: Enables regular expression search syntax for more complex queries
  • Preserve Case: Replaced text will maintain original casing

Tips

Here are some handy tips for using Find and Replace effectively:

  • Use the file icon to narrow your search to specific files or folders
  • Test out regular expressions in the RegExr tool
  • Start with a narrow search and replace before doing a global find/replace across everything
  • Always review changes before committing them in the Preview Changes view
  • Create a Git commit or branch before global find/replace to allow for rollback

Example Find and Replace Operations

Here are some examples of useful find and replace operations:

Update variable name

Find: myOldVariable
Replace: myNewVariable

This will replace all instances of myOldVariable with myNewVariable across all files.

Fix typo

Find: develpment
Replace: development

This fixes the common typo develpment.

Change function call

Find: getFullName()
Replace: getFormattedName()

This changes a function call from getFullName to getFormattedName.

Update file path

Find: ../old-path/file.js
Replace: ../new-path/file.js

This will update an outdated file path that has changed directories.

Conclusion

The find and replace tool in VS Code is extremely useful for updating text across multiple files in a project. Using regular expressions unlocks even more advanced search and replace functionality.

Some key things to remember are:

  • Use Ctrl/Cmd+Shift+H to access the tool
  • Narrow your search using the file icon
  • Review all changes before committing them
  • Leverage regular expressions for advanced queries

Following this best practice guide, you should now feel comfortable finding and replacing text across your entire VS Code project.

Additional Resources