Use regular expressions in Visual Studio

Visual Studio uses .NET Framework regular expressions to find and replace text.

Replacement patterns

To use a numbered capture group, surround the group with parentheses in the regular expression pattern. Use $number, where number is an integer starting at 1, to specify a specific, numbered group in a replacement pattern. For example, the grouped regular expression (\d)([a-z]) defines two groups: the first group contains a single decimal digit, and the second group contains a single character between a and z. The expression finds four matches in the following string: 1a 2b 3c 4d. The replacement string z$1 references the first group only, and converts the string to z1 z2 z3 z4.

For information about regular expressions that are used in replacement patterns, see Substitutions in regular expressions (.NET guide).

Regular expression examples

Here are some examples:

Purpose Expression Example
Match any single character (except a line break) . a.o matches "aro" in "around" and "abo" in "about" but not "acro" in "across".
Match zero or more occurrences of the preceding expression (match as many characters as possible) * a*r matches "r" in "rack", "ar" in "ark", and "aar" in "aardvark"
Match any character zero or more times (Wildcard *) .* c.*e matches "cke" in "racket", "comme" in "comment", and "code" in "code"
Match one or more occurrences of the preceding expression (match as many characters as possible) + e.+d matches "eed" in "feeder" but not "ed".
Match any character one or more times (Wildcard ?) .+ e.+e matches "eede" in "feeder" but not "ee".
Match zero or more occurrences of the preceding expression (match as few characters as possible) *? e.*?e matches "ee" in "feeder" but not "eede".
Match one or more occurrences of the preceding expression (match as few characters as possible) +? e.+?e matches "ente" and "erprise" in "enterprise", but not the whole word "enterprise".
Anchor the match string to the beginning of a line or string ^ ^car matches the word "car" only when it appears at the beginning of a line.
Anchor the match string to the end of a line \r?$ end\r?$ matches "end" only when it appears at the end of a line.
Anchor the match string to the end of the file $ end$ matches "end" only when it appears at the end of the file.
Match any single character in a set [abc] b[abc] matches "ba", "bb", and "bc".
Match any character in a range of characters [a-f] be[n-t] matches "bet" in "between", "ben" in "beneath", and "bes" in "beside", but not "below".
Capture and implicitly number the expression contained within parenthesis () ([a-z])X\1 matches "aXa"and "bXb", but not "aXb". "\1" refers to the first expression group "[a-z]".
Invalidate a match (?!abc) real(?!ity) matches "real" in "realty" and "really" but not in "reality." It also finds the second "real" (but not the first "real") in "realityreal".
Match any character that is not in a given set of characters [^abc] be[^n-t] matches "bef" in "before", "beh" in "behind", and "bel" in "below", but not "beneath".
Match either the expression before or the one after the symbol. | (sponge\|mud) bath matches "sponge bath" and "mud bath."
Escape the character following the backslash \ \^ matches the character ^.
Specify the number of occurrences of the preceding character or group {x}, where x is the number of occurrences x(ab){2}x matches "xababx", and x(ab){2,3}x matches "xababx" and "xabababx" but not "xababababx".
Match text in a Unicode character class. For more information about Unicode character classes, see

Unicode Standard 5.2 Character Properties.
\p{X}, where "X" is the Unicode number. \p{Lu} matches "T" and "D" in "Thomas Doe".
Match a word boundary \b (Outside a character class \b specifies a word boundary, and inside a character class \b specifies a backspace.) \bin matches "in" in "inside" but not "pinto".
Match a line break (that is, a carriage return followed by a new line). \r?\n End\r?\nBegin matches "End" and "Begin" only when "End" is the last string in a line and "Begin" is the first string in the next line.
Match any alphanumeric character \w a\wd matches "add" and "a1d" but not "a d".
Match any whitespace character. \s Public\sInterface matches the phrase "Public Interface".
Match any numeric character \d \d matches and "3" in "3456", "2" in 23", and "1" in "1".
Match a Unicode character \uXXXX where XXXX specifies the Unicode character value. \u0065 matches the character "e".
Match an identifier \b[_\w-[0-9]][_\w]*\b Matches "type1" but not "&type1" or "#define".
Match a string inside quotes ((\".+?\")|('.+?')) Matches any string inside single or double quotes.
Match a hexadecimal number \b0[xX]([0-9a-fA-F]+)\b Matches "0xc67f" but not "0xc67g".
Match integers and decimals \b[0-9]*\.*[0-9]+\b Matches "1.333".

Tip

In Windows operating systems, most lines end in "\r\n" (a carriage return followed by a new line). These characters aren't visible, but are present in the editor and are passed to the .NET regular expression service.

See also