I was lately being teased by a vi user. He said that within few commands, one can do search-replace (both regexp and simple string ), on lines range. And one does not need to do highlight. One inputs start, end, and the string and replacement, pretty much.
Is there a way to do that in emacs? I'd hate to lose in a religious war ;-)

  • what do you mean by lines range? – Chakravarthy Raghunandan Dec 17 '16 at 10:11
  • For example: From line 20, to line 2003, on a 3000 lines file. Thanks. – user1134991 Dec 17 '16 at 10:32

In emacs it's not that hard to write your own.

(defun my-query-regexp-replace-lines (start end)
  (interactive "nStart line (inclusive): \nnEnd line (inclusive): ")
  (let (start-point end-point)
      (goto-char (point-min))
      (forward-line (- start 1))
      (setq start-point (point))
      (forward-line (1+ (- end start)))
      (setq end-point (point)))
      (narrow-to-region start-point end-point)
      (call-interactively 'query-replace-regexp))))

As the other answer says evil-mode is great too


I'm not sure I understand what's so great about not highlighting the lines first.

Anyway, selecting them is easy. The vi command :20,2003s/foo/bar/g<CR> would be something like: M-g M-g 20 RET C-SPC M-g M-g 2004 RET M-% foo RET bar RET !. Yes, the vi version is a full 3 keypresses shorter, and easier to type, but the Emacs one is not too bad. If you plan on doing lots of stuff to that same range of lines besides the search and replace, I recommend using narrow-to-region.

  • Highlighting 2000 lines isn't fun (at least for me). Thanks. – user1134991 Dec 18 '16 at 18:32
  • 1
    For your 3 extra keypresses you get visual confirmation that your start and end lines are the correct places. – icarus Dec 19 '16 at 13:57
  • I don't think it's fun either, @user1134991, I doubt anyone expects that sort of thing to be fun. It is however, fast, effective and easy to do. I'm satisfied with those qualities in a line selection experience. For comparison, I don't think specifying a range is fun in vi either, there it is also merely fast, effective and easy to do. – Omar Dec 19 '16 at 18:23

You can switch to evil-mode and use commands similar to the commands in vi.

To replace "foo" with "bar" in lines 23 to 42 in a buffer

  • type :23,42s/foo/bar/g
  • hit enter

Deactivate evil with a further M-x evil-mode.


  • Would you mind providing the necessary input for the precise example? This could turn some people (me at least) in trying evil-mode (which I never did). – JeanPierre Dec 17 '16 at 14:27
  • emacs.stackexchange.com/users/9995/jeanpierre See the edited answer. – Marco Wahl Dec 17 '16 at 17:50
  • 1
    I think the same can be achieved with viper-mode, included in emacs. However exiting viper is with viper-go-away. – JeanPierre Dec 17 '16 at 18:02

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