Regex Help - Greedy vs. Non-Greedy

George Davidovich freebsd at
Wed Sep 9 17:46:48 UTC 2009

On Wed, Sep 09, 2009 at 09:15:25AM -0700, Drew Tomlinson wrote:
> I'm trying to do a search and replace in vim.  I have lines like this:
> http://site1/dir/;
> http://site2/dir/;LastName, FirstName;Phone;
> http://site3/dir/;LastName, FirstName;
> http://site4/dir/;
> I'm want to match "http:*" and stop matching at the first ";".  My basic 
> regex is:
> /http:.\+;/
> But it's matching *all* the semi-colons.  Thus I've Googled and tried 
> various incatations to try and make my regex "non-greedy" but I can't 
> seem to come up with the correct combination.

LOL.  Do yourself a favour and stop "Googling".  Vim has a built-in help
system.  To access help for regular expressions:

  :help regexp
  :he regexp
  :he r[TAB] ...

and search for non-greedy (or just scroll down).

> How can I write a regex that stops matching at the first semi-colon?

You've already received a few answers, but I'll add one that may be even
better -- rely on external programs instead.  Vim can be a bit clunky at

The simplest and most typical usage would be

  :[range] !command 

If using Perl  

  $ perldoc -h
  $ perldoc -q regex


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