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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.

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. To find one more match, type M-, (tags-loop-continue) to resume the tags-search. 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 section Replacement Commands, for more information on query replace.

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.

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.

It may have struck you that tags-search is a lot like grep. You can also run grep itself as an inferior of Emacs and have Emacs show you the matching lines one by one. This works much like running a compilation; finding the source locations of the grep matches works like finding the compilation errors. See section Running Compilations under Emacs.

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