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28.3.6 Searching and Replacing with Tags Tables

The commands in this section visit and search all the files listed in the selected tags table, one by one. For these commands, the tags table serves only to specify a sequence of files to search. These commands scan the list of tags tables starting with the first tags table (if any) that describes the current file, proceed from there to the end of the list, and then scan from the beginning of the list until they have covered all the tables in the list.

M-x tags-search RET regexp RET

Search for regexp through the files in the selected tags table.

M-x tags-query-replace RET regexp RET replacement RET

Perform a query-replace-regexp on each file in the selected tags table.


Restart one of the commands above, from the current location of point (tags-loop-continue).

M-x tags-search reads a regexp using the minibuffer, then searches for matches in all the files in the selected tags table, one file at a time. It displays the name of the file being searched so you can follow its progress. As soon as it finds an occurrence, tags-search returns.

Having found one match, you probably want to find all the rest. Type M-, (tags-loop-continue) to resume the tags-search, finding one more match. This searches the rest of the current buffer, followed by the remaining files of the tags table.

M-x tags-query-replace performs a single query-replace-regexp through all the files in the tags table. It reads a regexp to search for and a string to replace with, just like ordinary M-x query-replace-regexp. It searches much like M-x tags-search, but repeatedly, processing matches according to your input. See Query Replace, for more information on query replace.

You can control the case-sensitivity of tags search commands by customizing the value of the variable tags-case-fold-search. The default is to use the same setting as the value of case-fold-search (see Search Case).

It is possible to get through all the files in the tags table with a single invocation of M-x tags-query-replace. But often it is useful to exit temporarily, which you can do with any input event that has no special query replace meaning. You can resume the query replace subsequently by typing M-,; this command resumes the last tags search or replace command that you did. For instance, to skip the rest of the current file, you can type M-> M-,.

The commands in this section carry out much broader searches than the find-tag family. The find-tag commands search only for definitions of tags that match your substring or regexp. The commands tags-search and tags-query-replace find every occurrence of the regexp, as ordinary search commands and replace commands do in the current buffer.

These commands create buffers only temporarily for the files that they have to search (those which are not already visited in Emacs buffers). Buffers in which no match is found are quickly killed; the others continue to exist.

As an alternative to tags-search, you can run grep as a subprocess and have Emacs show you the matching lines one by one. See Grep Searching.

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