Multiline Replace Techniques in VS Code

Visual Studio Code (VS Code) is a powerful code editor with a wide range of features to enhance your coding experience. Multiline replace operations are essential for making bulk changes to code. In this guide, we’ll explore effective techniques for performing multiline replacements in VS Code.

Understanding Multiline Replace

Multiline replace involves replacing patterns or text across multiple lines in a document. This technique is useful for refactoring code, fixing formatting issues, or updating variable names across a large portion of your codebase.

Limitations of Basic Find and Replace

While basic find and replace works for single-line changes, it falls short for multiline replacements. VS Code provides advanced features and regular expressions for more complex multiline replacements.

Multiline Replace Techniques

Let’s dive into techniques for performing efficient multiline replacements in VS Code:

1. Using Regular Expressions

Regular expressions (regex) are powerful tools for pattern matching and replacement. To perform multiline replacements using regex, enable the “.*” option to match across multiple lines.

For example, to replace a block of commented-out code:

  • Press Ctrl + F to open the search bar.
  • Click the .* button to enable multiline matching.
  • Enter the regex pattern to match the block of code:


  • In the replace field, specify the replacement text.

2. Utilizing the Replace Preview

VS Code offers a replace preview that lets you review changes before applying them. To use the replace preview:

  • Press Ctrl + H to open the replace bar.
  • Click the “Replace Preview” button to enable preview mode.
  • Enter the search pattern and replacement text.
  • Click the “Replace” button to review changes one by one.

3. Combining Multiple Lines

To combine multiple lines into a single line, use the multiline regex mode along with capture groups:

  • Press Ctrl + F to open the search bar.
  • Click the .* button to enable multiline matching.
  • Enter the regex pattern to capture lines:


  • In the replace field, use the captured groups to combine lines:
$1 $2 $3

4. Search and Replace in Files

For replacing across multiple files, use the “Search and Replace in Files” feature:

  • Press Ctrl + Shift + F to open the search panel.
  • Enter the search pattern and replacement text.
  • Select the folder or directory to search in.
  • Click the “Replace” button to apply changes to all files.

Practical Application: Refactoring CSS

Suppose you have multiple CSS rules with vendor prefixes that you want to refactor:

.box {
-webkit-transform: translateX(10px);
-moz-transform: translateX(10px);
transform: translateX(10px);

Using regex multiline replace, you can simplify this code:

  • Press Ctrl + F to open the search bar.
  • Enable multiline matching with .*.
  • Enter the regex pattern to match vendor prefixes:


  • In the replace field, use the captured group to remove prefixes:



  • Can I perform multiline replace across all files in a project?

Yes, you can use the “Search and Replace in Files” feature (Ctrl + Shift + F) to perform multiline replacements across multiple files in a project.

  • What if my replacement text contains line breaks?

If your replacement text contains line breaks, you can use escape sequences (\n) to represent them.

  • Can I use multiline replace for code formatting?

Yes, multiline replace is helpful for code formatting tasks, such as combining multiple lines or reorganizing code blocks.

  • Are regular expressions case-sensitive in VS Code?

Regular expressions in VS Code are case-insensitive by default. To perform case-sensitive searches, enable the “Match Case” option.

  • Can I undo a multiline replace operation?

Yes, you can undo a multiline replace operation by pressing Ctrl + Z immediately after performing the replace.


Mastering multiline replace techniques in VS Code empowers you to efficiently make bulk changes to your codebase. By applying the methods discussed in this guide, you’ll enhance your coding productivity, perform complex refactoring tasks, and maintain clean and organized code. Whether you’re working on code cleanup, formatting, or updating patterns, VS Code’s advanced search and replace features will help you achieve your goals effectively.

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