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Find and replace using GREP expressions and queries

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  5. Find and replace
    1. Find and replace text
    2. Find and replace fonts
    3. Find and replace glyphs
    4. Find and replace using GREP expressions and queries
    5. Find and replace objects
    6. Find and replace colors
    7. Search options to find and replace
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Learn to create GREP expressions and queries to find and replace alphanumeric strings and patterns.

With GREP expressions, you can find and replace alphanumeric strings and patterns in long or multiple open documents. You can also save frequently used search criteria as queries to save time.

Search using GREP expressions

  1. Select Edit > Find/Change, and select the GREP tab.

  2. In Find what, follow any of these options to construct a GREP expression:

  3. Type or paste the replacement text in Change to.

  4. Select Find Next.

    Select Change, Change All, or Change/Find to replace text and continue searching.

Construct a GREP expression

Open a document or multiple documents to find and replace text using GREP expressions.

Example: Find text within quotation marks and change the formatting

Follow these steps to find text within quotation marks and change its formatting:

  1. Type (“)(\w+)(“)in the Find what field.

    This expression contains three groupings, as indicated by the parentheses.

    The first and third groupings search for any quotation mark, and the second grouping searches for one or more word characters.

  2. In the Change to section, select Special characters for replace   icon > Found > Found Text.

    You can view $0 in the Change to field.

  3. Type any of the following in the Change to field to change the required grouping:

    $0 – to change all groupings

    $1 – to change the first grouping

    $2 – to change the second grouping and so on.

  4. Select Specify attributes to replace   icon in the Change Format section and the formatting.

  5. Select Find Next.

    Select Change, Change All, or Change/Find to replace text and continue searching.

Screenshot of the Find/Change panel with the example to find text within double quiotes

A. Find what B. Change to C. Find Format D. Change Format 

Additional GREP examples

Find criteria

GREP Expression


Class of characters


Type the following to find a, b, or c:



Negative lookahead


Use this to avoid a certain pattern from your search. For example, to avoid finding InDesign CS versions from a list of InDesign versions, type:


InDesign (?!CS.*?)

Positive lookahead


Use this to find a certain pattern. For example, to find InDesign CS versions ONLY from a list of InDesign versions, type:


InDesign (?=CS.*?)

Case-insensitive on


Use this to find text irrespective of the typing case. For example, if you want to find Apple in any case (apple, APPLE, and so on), type the following:



Case-insensitive off


Use this to find Case-sensitive text. For example, if you want to find Apple ONLY (not apple, APPLE, and so on), type the following:



Find a character or word a certain number of times

{ }

Type any of the following to find the repeat number of a character or word:


b{3} - matches exactly 3 times

b(3,} - matches at least 3 or more times

b{3,}? - matches ONLY 3 times

b{2,3} - matches at least 2 times and not more than 3

Find and replace items using queries

query is a defined find-and-change operation. InDesign offers several preset queries for changing punctuation formats and other useful actions, such as changing telephone number formats. By saving a query you constructed, you can rerun it and share it with others.

To modify your text, objects, and glyphs, you have the option to either use an existing query or create a new one.

Search using queries

  1. Select Edit > Find/Change.

  2. Select a query from the Query list.

  3. Specify a range to search on the Search menu. You can’t save the search range with the query.

  4. Select Find Next.

    Select ChangeChange All, or Change/Find to replace text and continue searching.

After you select a search query in the Find/Change dialog, you can adjust the settings to fine-tune your search.

Example query: Phone number conversion

Follow along to convert the Phone number format with an in-built query:

  1. Select Edit > Find/Change.

  2. Select Phone Number Conversion (dot format) from the query list. You can see the following in the Find what field:

    \(?(\d\d\d)\)?[-. ]?(\d\d\d)[-. ]?(\d\d\d\d)

    Phone numbers in the United States can appear in various formats, such as 206-555-3982, (206) 555-3982, 206.555.3982, and 206 555 3982. This string looks for any of these variations.

  3. You can edit the grouping references in the Change to field to suit your needs. For example, you could use these expressions:

    206.555.3982 = $1.$2.$3

    206-555-3982 = $1-$2-$3

    (206) 555-3982 = ($1) $2-$3

    206 555 3982 = $1 $2 $3

Save queries

You can save a query in the Find/Change dialog to rerun it or share it with others. You can view the saved queries under the Query list of the Find/Change dialog.

  1. Select Edit > Find/Change.

  2. Select TextGREP, or a different tab to undertake the search you want.

  3. Select the Include Locked Layers and Locked Objects (Find Only)   icon, Include Locked Stories (Find Only)   icon, Include Footnotes   icon, etc., and you can save these along with the query. However, you can’t save the search range.

  4. Define the Find what and Change to fields. (See Metacharacters for searching and Search using GREP expressions.)

  5. Select the Save Query  icon and enter a name for the query.

Delete queries

  1. Select Edit > Find/Change.

  2. Select a query from the list and then select the Delete Query  icon.

Load queries

Customized queries are stored as XML files. The names of customized queries appear in the Query list in the Find/Change dialog.


Users\[username]\Library\Preferences\Adobe InDesign\[Version]\[Language]\Find-Change Queries\[query type]

Windows XP

Documents and Settings\[username]\Application Data\Adobe\InDesign\[Version]\[Language]\Find-Change Queries\[query type]

Windows Vista and Windows 7

Users\[username]\AppData\Roaming\Adobe\InDesign\[Version]\[Language]\Find-Change Queries\[query type]

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