Vim features a regular expression matching engine which, while roughly as powerful as Perl's, is unfortunately quite different in terms of syntax.
To illustrate, consider a task I recently faced. I wanted to sweep through a large collection of Ruby files replacing a bunch of
require lines that used relative paths with equivalent absolute paths.
This meant replacing lines of the form:
require File.dirname(__FILE__) + "/../spec_helper"
require File.expand_path('../spec_helper', File.dirname(__FILE__))
The invocation to do this with Vim is:
:%s/require .\+\("\|'\)\/\?\(.\+spec_helper\)\("\|')/require File.expand_path('\2', File.dirname(__FILE__))/c
While the basic format is familiar:
Note that almost all "meta" characters which usually have special meaning in regular expressions must be escaped (characters like
+). Other "meta" characters like
., however, must not be escaped. The additional escaping makes for very punctuation-heavy regular expressions. What would be written in perl as:
Is written in Vim as:
You can start the pattern with
\v to activate "very magic" behavior, meaning that just about every character that can possibly be interpreted with a "meta" meaning will be interpreted that way even without the preceding backslash. This brings us back a little closer to the familiar perl syntax:
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