Hung-Yi’s Journal

Front-end Developer, Emacs Adventurer, Home Cook

06 Sep 2020

How to Do a Project-wide Search & Replace in Doom Emacs

Earlier this week I went looking for "how to search and replace in a whole project" in Emacs. I knew had Doom Emacs set up with evil turned on by default, and I knew to use SPC s p to launch Ivy's counsel-rg for searching the project. What was next…?

Today, I'm documenting the process so that I won't forget again. Hopefully it'll help someone out there too.

TLDR: SPC s p foo C-c C-e :%s/foo/bar/g RET Z Z

Entering those keys will replace "foo" with "bar" in your whole project. Magic!

The Long Explanation

  1. Make sure you're in the right project and all your open buffers/files are saved. If you're making a large change, maybe a git commit would give you a little extra insurance.

  2. SPC s p to launch the project search. This is what you would normally use to search strings or regular expressions1 within your project. I've set ivy-more-chars-alist to not return any results until at least 3 characters have been entered2, otherwise counsel can be a little overzealous in returning results.

  3. Type in a search string or regular expression, foo in this example, to get some results. This doesn't have to be exactly what you want to replace; it just needs to be specific enough to get the right results into view.

  4. C-c C-e to transform the search results into a wgrep or writable grep buffer. This calls +ivy/woccur, which is equivalent to pressing C-c C-o C-c C-p (i.e. ivy-occur for turning ivy results into a buffer and wgrep-change-to-wgrep-mode to make it writable).

  5. Use your preferred method of search and replace in a single file. Doom relies heavily on evil's vim emulation, so the smoothest option for me was to type :%s/foo/bar/g to preview the changes and hitting RET to apply.

    You can also edit the buffer manually using any technique you want. M-% or C-M-% to do a regular Emacs query replace? Sure. C-x SPC or C-v to do a rectangle/visual block edit? Go for it. g z z for evil-mc multiple cursors? No worries—just be careful of the readonly region of filenames on the left.

    At this stage nothing has been written to the files yet, so you can still undo easily. Go through all the lines in the search results to check if the changes are as expected.

    You can also SPC : wgrep or M-x wgrep to look at the other advanced wgrep actions.

  6. Hit Z Z to write all the changes to their respective files, or Z Q to abort the search and replace.


Just a reminder that Emacs has its own idiosyncratic version of regular expressions. It's weird, I know.


I have this in my config.el to set the minimum characters to 3 before a search is fired. You can customize the threshold individually for each of the commands.

(after! ivy
  (setq ivy-more-chars-alist '((counsel-grep . 3)
                               (counsel-rg . 3)
                               (counsel-search . 3)
                               (t . 3))))