How to do a wildcard / GREP / regex find-replace in Illustrator?


InDesign can do advanced find - change AKA find - replace using GREP rules AKA regex AKA regular expressions which allows all sorts of wildcard rules and automation.

Is there any way to do the same in Illustrator?

4/1/2015 4:42:00 PM

Accepted Answer

I gone done made a script for that. I've tested it in Illustrator CS6 on Mac and on Windows.

It does a regex find-replace on text in the selected items, or on all text if nothing is selected.

It works on point text, area text and text on a path, and doesn't mind if non-text items are included in the selection.

Note: there seems to be a bug where sometimes it fails to find text within selected groups - if you encounter this, try running the script with nothing selected, or ungrouping.

Regex text replace.js

var scope = app.activeDocument.selection.length ? app.activeDocument.selection : app.activeDocument.pageItems;

var find = prompt("Find: (Text or GREP/regex)","");
if(find !== null){

    var replace = prompt("Replace: (Text or GREP/regex)","");
    if(replace !== null){

        var changes = 0;

        for(var i=0;i<scope.length;i++){  

            var text = scope[i];

            var string = text.contents;  
            if(typeof string == "string"){
                var newstring = string.replace( new RegExp(find, 'g'), replace);
                if (newstring != string) {
                    var paragraphsArray = newstring.split("\n");
                    for(var ii=0;ii<paragraphsArray.length;ii++){  
        alert( changes==1 ? "1 text object changed" : changes + " text objects changed");

Any GREP rule from InDesign should work - I recommend building and testing the rule in InDesign's Paragraph styles > GREP rules with some sample text and Preview ticked, then copying the GREP code over to this script - which is easier than trial-and-error with this script.

In Replace, you can use $1 for anything matched within the first pair of brackets (( to )), $2 for the second, etc.

Here's a few examples I tested with it:

  • Simple find/replace:
    • Find: test
    • Replace: hello
  • Simple find/replace with one wildcard character, matching test, tent, te!t etc. Note - if you want a normal . in your search, you need to put a \ in front of it so it's not treated as a special character, like This be a sentence\. This be another\. - this is true for most punctuation characters:
    • Find: te.t
    • Replace: hello
  • Add a % to all numbers in selection (this matches numbers with and without a decimal points and one comma, like 123, 12.3, 1,234 and 1,234.5 - for continental European style numbers like 1.234,5 switch the , and .):
    • Find: (\d+\,?\d*\.?\d*)
    • Replace: $1%
  • Turn multiple spaces into one space:
    • Find:+ (there's a space before that + which is getting chopped out)
    • Replace: (space)
12/8/2015 10:22:00 AM

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