Structural search and replace


Searching through a large project is always tiresome. Changing a large project is usually more tiresome even with all cool IDE features such as search by regular expressions, find usages, or automated refactoring.
For example, you may need to find all the classes that implement exactly two interfaces or find all methods that accept a parameter with a specific name and/or type. Finding usages or simple search may produce too long lists of results, especially if your project is really large.
The solution suggested by IntelliJ IDEA is Structural Search and Replace (SSR) where you can define the code pattern to narrow the search scope.
Let’s consider an example when you need to find all inner classes in your project. The search template will look as follows:

class $Class${
   class $InnerClass${}

Here $Class$ and $InnerClass$ can be any class names.
If you need to find an inner class that implements, let’s say, Runnable interface you can write the following:

class $Class$ {
   class $InnerClass$ implements Runnable{}

To find all the inner classes that implement any interface, it is enough to write this:

class $Class$ {
   class $InnerClass$ implements $Interface${}

If “any interface” is not what you need, it is possible to apply powerful constraints to the variable.
Of course, you can also use the templates for replacing the found code. For example, you may wish to convert all the found classes to become final. The screenshot shows how it looks in IntelliJ IDEA user interface.
Once created, a template can be saved and then reused. And of course, IntelliJ IDEA provides a lot of predefined templates.
Get interested? Learn more about SSR in Structural Search and Replace: What, Why, and How-to written by Maxim Mossienko, one of the JetBrains developers and originator of the Structural Search and Replace feature.

Note   This tip was originally posted at

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4 Responses to Structural search and replace

  1. Ghetto Java says:

    April 3, 2006

    I didn’t even know you could do templates for SSR. I wish the structural search was the default or at least an option in the prefs to make it the default search. Hmm, thinking about it now I guess I could replace the ctl-f (command-f on osx) assignment to use SSR.
    I’ll try that.

  2. Evgeniy says:

    September 8, 2006


    I have spend already an hour trying to write simple template for structural replace. All I want to do is to replace constant initizlization with static initialization and try/catch block.

    So template for search is:
    public final static Colour $VAR_NAME$ = new Colour($PARAMS$);

    for replace:
    public static Colour $VAR_NAME$;
    $VAR_NAME$ = new Colour($PARAMS$);
    } catch(Throwble t)

    But Idea reports:
    Unsupported Replacement Pattern The search template is not an expression, but the replacement template is well formed expression.

    What I’am doing wrong?

  3. Drew Noakes says:

    April 26, 2011

    Where are these settings found in IDEA 10.5?

  4. Konstantin says:

    December 9, 2017

    sorry for necro-comment but – is it available in community edition.
    The feature is awesome but I also faced strange behavior of this feature
    Is it’s implementation code available anywhere ?


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