Tip

Global replace freeware tool supports regular expressions

At least one implementation of the UNIX command grep, or "global replace," belongs in every administrator's utility kit.

I can't count how many times I've used a grep-like tool to do maintenance, fix broken references throughout a Web site or do any number of other dirty jobs that couldn't be done single-handedly. But one persistent problem has been the lack of a grep tool that used regular expressions, i.e., a way to do search-and-replace operations that used open-ended search parameters instead of static strings.

A few such tools have surfaced, but they've always been professional for-pay utilities. Enter ReplaceEm, a freeware search-and-replace tool that performs regular-expression-driven searches across entire drives or directories. You can also perform conventional search-and-replace operations, but the real power of the program lies in being able to use regular expressions.

When you launch the program, it provides a series of "replace groups," which are ways to organize your search-and-replace actions that can be deleted and changed as needed. Each group can contain a set of search-and-replace instructions, which lists a source folder, a destination folder and backup instructions for the original files if needed.

An Advanced Edit function lets you work with text that includes tabs and carriage returns without having to spell them out with special codes. You can also use the Advanced Edit function to load search-and-replace

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parameters from standalone text files, which is a boon if you're working with something too big to be comfortably typed.

The program's downside is that there's no builder or utility to create regular expressions. If you don't know the syntax, you'll be completely at sea. It's best to get a tutorial and learn from there. The learning curve is steep, but once you get past it you'll find it's possible to do nearly anything.

About the author: Serdar Yegulalp is editor of the  Windows Insight, (formerly the Windows Power Users Newsletter), a blog site devoted to hints, tips, tricks and news for users and administrators of Windows NT, Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Server 2003 and Vista. He has more than 12 years of Windows experience under his belt, and contributes regularly to SearchWinComputing.com and SearchSQLServer.com.

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This was first published in February 2007

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