Operate across files by name


Recently, I was working on a large rename across an entire codebase. I needed to make several changes across a number of files, which we’ve written about before. The general tactic is to populate Vim’s arg list (:help arglist) with the applicable files and then run a command across all of them that performs a substitution and writes the file:

:argdo %s/foo/bar/g | w

In my case, I wanted to find all the files with a certain name and operate across all of them. This is a case for the Unix find utility, which I can run straight from within Vim with :! like so:

:!find . -name *_controller.rb

But this isn’t very useful. Vim just flashes up the results of the find and then it disappears when we press any key. What I really want is to browse through this list of results — something the quickfix list (:help quickfix) is exactly designed for. I asked over on Tim Pope’s Discord if there was a way and he delivered: The :Cfind command in his own Eunuch plugin. It wraps find and loads the results into the quickfix list. So in our case:

:Cfind . -name *_controller.rb

Now I can use ]q or [q (from Tim’s Unimpaired plugin) or just :cnext or :cprevious and navigate through the resulting files. This alone might be useful for many cases — quick access to operate across all the files that match a certain name. And, of course, find has many other options useful for finding files.

In my example, I wanted to further automate this so I copied the quickfix list to the arg list and then ran the multifile substitution and write command:

:argdo %s/foo/bar/g | w

There’s a short demo of :Cfind below. Watch how I can navigate through the results of the find with ease:

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Written by

Colin Bartlett

85 Posts

Vim enthusiast and software developer for more than 20 years.
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2 thoughts on “Operate across files by name”

  1. Instead of copying the quickfix list to the arg list and then using `argdo`, it seems you could take advantage of `cfdo`. (Personally, I use a combination of `:grep` and `:cdo s/foo/bar/g | update` to do cross-file renames. `Cfilter` too can be really helpful to whittle the quickfix list down if needs be.)

    (Correct me if I am wrong, though. I am not too familiar with `argdo` and any of its advantages.)

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