In Sublime-Text and other editors, we can press Ctrl-Shift-F to invoke the search and replace UI. We can also accomplish this task easily in Vim or Neovim with the builtin features. Here is how.

There are two steps involved in this task. The first step is to find the files containing the search pattern under the current project or directory. The second step is to perform replacement for each file found in 1st step.

Depending on which Vim command to use, there are basically two ways to do this task. For illustrating purposes, we will try to replace all Neovim occurrences in my nvim config repo to Nvim.

# Use vimgrep or grep with cfdo

We can use vimgrep or grep command to populate the Vim quickfix list with files matching our specific pattern. The cfdo command can then be utilized to perform replacement operation for each file in the quickfix list1.

The difference between vimgrep and grep command is that vimgrep is internal and provided by Vim, while grep command uses external programs to search files depending on the platform (see :h grepprg).

## vimgrep

To find all files containing Neovim under current directory using vimgrep, we can use the following the command:

:vimgrep /Neovim/gj **/*


In the above command, Neovim is our search pattern. The meanings of g and j flags are as follows:

• g: Add all matches in a line to the quickfix list.
• j: Do not jump the cursor to the location of first pattern match.

The **/* specify the files to search for the pattern. In this case, it means to search recursively under the current directory and for all files types2. You can also search only in certain files types, for example, in Vim script:

:vimgrep /Neovim/gj **/*.vim


After this step, the quickfix will be populated with the matching files, lines and column number (use copen to open the quickfix list):

## grep

If we use grep command, it is often useful to specify the external grep program that we want to use via the grepprg option. For this, I highly recommend ripgrep, which is one of the fastest command line search tools. We need to add the following settings to Neovim or Vim config:

set grepprg=rg\ --vimgrep\ --no-heading\ --smart-case
set grepformat=%f:%l:%c:%m


To search Neovim under current directory using grep, just use grep Neovim.

## cfdo

After the quickfix list is filled with files containing the search pattern, we now use cfdo command to perform replace operation on each file:

:cfdo %s/Neovim/Nvim/ge | update


The cfdo command can be followed by one command or a series of commands (separated by |). In the above example, we first perform substitution, then followed by update command so that the replacement change is saved.

# Use args and argdo

Another way to perform search and replace is to use args and argdo command. The args command is used to build a list of files that we would like to perform an action. argdo command is then used to perform this action on each file in the argument list.

To add files to the argument list, we can use external tools like grep or ripgrep to search files with backtick. For example:

:args grep Neovim -l -r .


or

:args rg Neovim -l


One issue with backtick is that it does not work on Windows. You can only use the above command on Linux or macOS.

After adding all files containing the pattern to argument list, we then use argdo to perform replacement (works similarly to cfdo command):

:argdo %s/Neovim/Nvim/ge | update


# References

1. The cfdo command was added in Vim 7.4.858. Your Vim version should be newer than that. ↩︎

2. For more info on the glob pattern, see :h starstar-wildcard inside Vim. ↩︎