GrepWin adds the grep regex search tool to Explorer context menus.

Add regular expression searches from shell menus in Windows with this free tool.

Power users will love GrepWin, a free search-and-replace tool that enables regular expression searches from context menus in Explorer. It essentially adds a sophisticated interface to the grep command-line search tool developed for Unix and used in Linux, MacOS, and other operating systems, including Windows. It can replace whole strings of text in compatible files and documents, such as text files. Regular expressions (regex) enable incredibly specific searches, such as words with a specific number of letters or sequence of vowels, or "cats" when preceded by "house" or "wild." With special characters, groupings, and syntax, it's a science unto itself.

GrepWin automatically associates itself with shell context menus in Windows, so we simply right-clicked the desktop and selected it. GrepWin's businesslike interface is fairly typical of search tools, with entry fields, various options and buttons, and a list view, though it's an up-to-date design, too, with aero-style highlighting enlivening the gray tones. We could specify a regex or text search, enable case-sensitive searching, limit searches by various factors such as file size, enter strings to exclude or exactly match files, and include or exclude hidden items, system items, binary files, and subfolders. A Settings button let us specify a text editor to use with GrepWin. We could also check boxes to create backup files, treat files as UTF8, and create and use Presets. Pressing F1 for Help called up a useful list of regular expressions, with more examples and assistance available at the program's Web site.

GrepWin is a pleasure to use. We started with some simple text and regex searches and moved on to some more complex searches, yet GrepWin found highly specific results very quickly in each case. Next we tried the Replace feature. We created and named a text file, typed in a word, and saved it to a specific destination. GrepWin quickly found it. In the Replace field, we entered a different word, and then clicked the Replace button. When we returned to our text file and opened it, the original word had been replaced with our new word; job well done. GrepWin's a winner.

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