I use visual-regexp to make query regexp search. Consider this text:

enter image description here \enquote{\Large{text1}} \enquote{\Large{text2}} \enquote{\Large{text3}} \enquote{\Large{text4}}

I want regexp to match every and single macro group (the 4 groups). I invoke a query regexp by C-c q and entered this regexp:


Problem is that it returned one match instead of 4 matches:
enter image description here

the \(.?+\) was very greedy to match all 4 macro groups.

But, when I get each of the 4 groups in its own line I get the desired effect:
enter image description here

Now I could do replace with: \2\4 to get the desired result:
enter image description here

So what I was missing when all were on the same line?

Plus, can you please recommend any good documentation on using regexp/grep in Emacs?

  • 1
    You should use .+? and not .?+.. Jan 6, 2015 at 12:44
  • 1
    Yep. that solved it! feel free to upgrade your comment to an accepted answer.
    – doctorate
    Jan 6, 2015 at 12:47

2 Answers 2


you could use non greedy + like \(\\Large{\)\(.+?\)\(}\)\(}\) (note the inversion of the ? and the +) if you add a ? after a + the + will match the smaller match possible. Note also that .?+ is the same as .*


You want to match "Large, opening brace, anything but a closing brace, the closing brace". This is the corresponding regexp


Note the regexp would be more complicated if the argument of \Large has groups (i.e. braces) itself. TeXnical note: \Large is a declaration, must not be used as a command with arguments.

re-builder is very handy to practice regexp searches.

Regarding the documentation, the starting point is the Elisp manual: https://www.gnu.org/software/emacs/manual/html_node/elisp/Regular-Expressions.html#Regular-Expressions (or (info "(elisp)Regular expressions") in Emacs)

  • @doctorate There are different syntaxes for regexps, some with more `s, some with less. re-builder` is just to write a regexp, not to search & replace (I haven't said that). Which group do you want to replace? The argument of \Large?
    – giordano
    Jan 6, 2015 at 12:11
  • I updated the question to make it more clear.
    – doctorate
    Jan 6, 2015 at 12:34
  • "\\\\Large{.+?}" is a shorter version though.
    – doctorate
    Jan 6, 2015 at 13:24

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