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Multiple-File Search and Replace Utilities

This is a review of some multiple-file search and replace utilities for the Windows operating system.

One limitation in Windows is the lack of a good search and replace utility. I've often needed to do a search or search and replace across multiple files. While Windows does have a decent Find utility, it doesn't search and replace. I've found a couple of programs that address this limitation.

The first one that I used is a shareware program called Search and Replace (what else!), and I liked it enough to buy it. At the time, Search and Replace was at version 2.8; it's subsequently been upgraded several times and is now at version 3.7. Search and Replace will search across multiple files, and it's very fast; a search of my YARN mail folders took 25 seconds to find the phrase "Netscape Gold" in 10 MB of text files. The replace text feature is very handy for making global changes to a series of web page files, for example. It will replace more than one line of text and can use UNIX-style regular expressions in searching and replacing. It will also work on binary files. The following screen shot shows the most recent version.

Since I bought it, a number of advanced features have been added. You can create scripts which allow you to control which files will be included in an operation and there is a script editor to help you automate repetitive tasks. You can also search .zip files. There is an HTML mode, which makes plain text --> HTML substitutions.

Search and Replace is published by Funduc Software. It costs $25 US and updates are included for six months. You can download a limited version from http://www.funduc.com. Funduc also produce several other utilities, including a directory and file comparison utility, a registry editor, a shortcut manager, and several others, some of which are free.

If you can't afford Funduc's Search and Replace and need a search and replace tool for personal use, InfoRapid Search and Replace is a good alternative. While it's not as powerful as the Funduc product, it is free for noncommercial use. (For commercial use, the price is 50 DM, about $23 US). The program supports search and replace across multiple files, several file types, including text, HTML, and MS Office formats, and supports Boolean operators and regular expressions. The following screen shot shows how search results are displayed. Matches are hyperlinked so that you can jump directly to the source file.

I found one part of the program somewhat annoying. To open the search dialog, you move your mouse cursor to the bottom of the screen. The search dialog rolls up from the bottom of the window. If you move your mouse while it's rolling up, which is quite easy to do because it takes a second or so), the dialog closes. I got used to this behaviour eventually, but it wasted quite a bit of my time until I figured out what was going on. Overall, I prefer the way it displays search results to that of Funduc's Search and Replace. I didn't do a formal test to evaluate speed, but the program is certainly quite fast.

You can download InfoRapid Search and Replace from the company's web site at http://www.inforapid.de/html/english.htm.

As a final alternative for the true geeks among us, if you are familiar with UNIX or Linux and comfortable with command-line tools, you can use the awk and sed utilities under Windows by installing the Cygwin tools. These are a Windows port of the GNU development tools and utilities. For the most part, they allow you to operate under Windows as if you were using a UNIX shell. I'm not productive enough with UNIX to make this a viable alternative for performing searches and replacements, but many of my programmer friends swear by these tools (and sometimes at them).

The Cywin tools are free for use under the GNU General Public license. You can download them from http://sources.redhat.com/cygwin/.




Keith Soltys -- ksoltys@home.com,