Utilize Grep and Vim

I was working on a client’s huge website for the past couple weeks that required searching many files for instances of a string. My workflow began running grep in the entire directory.

grep -rin "phrase to search" *

The command outputs the path to file and the line number the phrase was found on.

path-to-file.php:78: phrase to search
path-to-file.php:51: phrase to search
path-to-file.php:10: phrase to search

I would then open the file in Vim at the line number returned, make my edits and save. I would repeat it for each result from the grep.

vim path-to-file.php +78
vim path-to-file.php +51
vim path-to-file.php +10

After a few times going through this process, I felt there had to be a faster, more efficient way. Of course there is! Instead of doing each command separately I can pass the output of grep into a Vim buffer and open each file from inside Vim.

grep -rin "phrase to search" * | vim -

What we are doing in the above command is running the original grep command and passing the output as the input of the proceeding command using the pipe “|” symbol. When running Vim, we pass the dash “-” symbol instead of a file name which tells Vim to create a new buffer with the output of the previous command (reads from STDIN).

So now, we see the same output as previously displayed but this time we can interact with it inside Vim.

path-to-file.php:78: phrase to search
path-to-file.php:51: phrase to search
path-to-file.php:10: phrase to search

All we have to do now is navigate to the line in the return of the file we’d like to open using Vim’s built in goto-file command ‘gf‘. When on a line, hitting ‘gf‘ will open that file, but that’s not exactly the result we want. We want it to go to the specific line number! Well, all we have to do is hit ‘gF‘ (shift-f) and it’ll do just that. Make your edits and save the file normally. You can then quit the buffer with ‘:bd‘ and you’ll be returned to the output again where you can repeat the process.

Enjoy!