Search and replace in VS Code using Regular Expressions

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I had the need to do a rather big change in the repository of my website.

I have hundreds of markdown files and in my markdown I sometimes include images with spaces, mostly because they are screenshots so the format is like

Screen Shot 2021-10-16 at 09.45.47.png

The string to load the image is:

![Alt text](Screen Shot 2021-10-16 at 09.45.47.png)

This worked fine in Hugo up to the version I had installed, but recently in version 0.100 they removed the support for the Markdown library I was using, named Blackfriday, and now only Goldmark is supported, which does not allow spaces in images any more (among other changes).

And I really had to update my site to keep up with Hugo as I was using an older version, 10 months old.

There goes my problem. I needed to update all my images links.

Well, not really. I could wrap the image name in <>:

![Alt text](<Screen Shot 2021-10-16 at 09.45.47.png>)

and things work again.

I just have to search and replace all of them!

I have thousands of those, not something I’m going to do.

So I remembered VS Code has regular expressions in its find / replace functionality.

After a bit of experimentation, using a Regex like this:

!\[(.+)\]\((.*\s+.*)\)

I was able to create 2 capturing groups, one for the alt text and one for the filename.

Then in the replace box I could use $1 for the alt text and $2 for the filename:

!\[\]\((.*\s+.*)\)

and this replacement string ![](<$1>) worked for the images without alt text (I know, I know…):

How did I come up with those regular expressions?

Mostly through my JavaScript Regular Expressions tutorial.

I wrote that a while ago, but it’s still my go-to resource.

Then some googling and https://regex101.com for quickly testing the regex.

Regular expressions still feel a bit magic to me, but sometimes it’s the only tool that can do the job.

Like in this case.

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