How to start a search automatically



  • Hello, I want to use a command to start Notepad++ with a certain file, and then start a search automatically, I know how to start Notepad++ by command, but I don’t know is it possible to start a search automatically, does anyone know this? Thanks!



  • @kaifuzi

    I can think of a possible way to script such a behavior via the Pythonscript plugin, but it is in no way “easy” to accomplish this way. :-(

    Maybe others have ideas?



  • @Alan-Kilborn Do you think is it possible to control Notepad++ by SendMessage function?



  • @kaifuzi

    Do you think is it possible to control Notepad++ by SendMessage function?

    It is possible. I don’t just think it: I know it is, because that’s how my Perl module for Notepad++ automation works. The messages can come from “inside” (via a plugin) or from “outside” (any application with access to the win32 API and that knows the hwnd for Notepad++ can send a message to Notepad++).

    The official docs have a page that shows all the messages available to Notepad++ GUI itself, and links to the Scintilla messages for affecting the text in the editor panes.

    Under the hood, messages are also how the PythonScript plugin (and other plugins) are implemented as well.

    @Alan-Kilborn 's suggestion of PythonScript plugin (to create a script with a hook that runs when Notepad++ is loaded) is probably the simplest solution, since PythonScript wraps the SendMessage interface in a very convenient manner.

    @kaifuzi , if you are willing to install the PythonScript plugin to help accomplish this task, let us know. If so, you might see someone here post an initial script to get you started. (Alan hinted he had a potential idea on how to implement it.)

    Question: did you want this replacement to run any time Notepad++ is opened, or only with a certain flag? If you want a dedicated flag, you can use the -z flag and then define your own post-z command-line-option, similar to what’s shown here, so that your PythonScript will only trigger when the extra flag is given, such as like notepad++.exe "c:\FULL\PATH\OF\THE\FILE.ezt" -z -autoreplace



  • @kaifuzi said in How to start a search automatically:

    Do you think is it possible to control Notepad++ by SendMessage function?

    Hmmm. That’s a question with really big “open parts” if you mean in the context of the thing you asked originally.
    Certainly SendMessage calls would be part of what I had in mind when I mentioned the possibility of writing a Pythonscript to do it.
    But could you do it ALL, from end-to-end, with just SendMessage calls?
    I would have serious doubt about that.
    But…maybe…



  • @Alan-Kilborn said in How to start a search automatically:

    But could you do it ALL, from end-to-end, with just SendMessage calls?

    I guess that is a good caveat to what I said. The SendMessage interface will be how it communicates instructions to Notepad++ and/or the embedded Scintilla. But the script or program (whether it’s PythonScript, my external Perl interface, or writing your own SendMessage commands from external or plugin C/C++/C#/…) will also have to do other things, especially the search-and-replace in the text. Or the script/app could trigger calling a macro which has the search/replace call already embedded.

    (In Perl, I’d do it with Perl’s built-in regex handling on the text from SCI_GETTEXT – or calling the macro, if you wanted to go that way. In PythonScript, I’d use its editor.rereplace() helper method, which makes full-text search-and-replace easy. I wouldn’t personally do text processing in C-family languages, if I could help it; though if you had the boost library or similar available to you, it wouldn’t be as bad.)



  • Some things to be aware of with the -z approach (which was already in my mind for this):

    • It probably only works when N++ is not currently running. Not sure of what the OP’s need is in this regard…

    • Specifying a search string on the command-line may be a bit “dicey” if the search string is long, complicated or contains “special characters”. Again, not sure of what the OP’s need is in this regard…

    So before we’d be expending effort to assist, I’d like to see the OP flesh out the need with a full example scenario. Much like a poorly-specified regex problem, I could easily see some effort put in only to have OP come back and say “Oh…I really wanted/needed THIS and you gave me THAT” even though THAT was the only thing previously specified.



  • @PeterJones said in How to start a search automatically:

    Or the script/app could trigger calling a macro which has the search/replace call already embedded.

    But that would require the search text to be fixed, which I seriously doubt is what OP intends.

    OP needs to speak! :-)



  • @PeterJones At first, I’d like to try SendMessage without PythonScript plugin. Because I don’t want to ask normal users to do this extra step.
    Here are the steps what I’m thinking:

    1. Using ShellExecute to start Notepad++ and open a certain file.
    2. Using SendMessage to start Search
    3. Using SendMessage to send search string to the Search text box
    4. Find all in current document.
      I’m not sure I can do it successfully by myself…


  • @kaifuzi ,

    Based on that description – wanting to run an external program which will launch Notepad++ and fill out dialogs manually, just to edit the file for the user – I am not sure why you don’t want to just create an application that will open the file itself (without Notepad++), do the search-and-replace, save the file, and then launch Notepad++ to open the results of that already-accomplished substitution.

    For example, using a batch file to launch Perl, I could do something as simple as:

    perl -pi -e "s/PERL REGEX/REPLACEMENT/g" "%1"
    notepad++.exe "%1"
    

    If your “replacement” was really more complicated than that, you could write as much perl as you needed to accomplish that task (and use the appropriate perl command-line sytnax to launch a script rather than the one-liner shown).

    (And before you say, “but I don’t want normal users to have to install Perl any more than I want them to install a plugin for Notepad++”: there are ways to compile perl – well outside the scope of this Notepad++ forum – or you could use any compilable language you were more familiar with to make this search-replace-and-launch app.)

    If you really want to do things the hard way, you manually craft all the SendMessage commands (the NPPM_MENUCOMMAND would be what you would use to launch the arbitrary menu command – in this case, the replace dialog), and then figure out how to navigate through the Search dialog’s various entry fields using Microsoft’s standard dialog access messages. But that doesn’t sound fun to me.

    And there are libraries designed for testing GUI applications, which can be used equally well to just remote-control an app, accessing its menus and dialog fields, etc. I don’t know what those libraries would be for C-family, but Perl has Win32::GuiTest (which is what I use for testing my Perl-based Notepad++ automation library).

    I think the best options for you:

    1. it would be easiest, really, to just tell users to "launch Notepad++, do Search > Replace, type xxx in the find and yyy in the replace, tick these options, and click Replace All
    2. Write the replacement yourself using your favorite programming language and the search-replace you’re most familiar with, generating an .exe which will do the edits then launches Notepad++ on the already-edited file to use as the viewer (or for them to continuing to edit); then somehow convince your users to use this launcher under the appropriate circumstances.
    3. Write a custom Plugin which is watching for a -z -autoreplace command line option; this might be more complicated for you, but it would be easier than helping your users through the PythonScript solution, since there are more steps than just installing PythonScript plugin in order to set things up).
    4. Write a script using PythonScript which does it, install it; create a zipfile distribution which includes Notepad++ pre-installed with PythonScript and this script already set up, and tell your users that they have to use your distribution of Notepad++ to have the feature you want them to have
    5. Write the PythonScript, and explain users how to set it up.

    Of course, if the search/replace expression is always the same, you could do a modified #4, which is create a pre-bundled Notepad++ zip which includes the search-and-replace macro already recorded, assigned to a simple-to-remember keystroke, and just tell your users "run Notepad++, open the file, and hit Ctrl-Alt-Shift-F12" or what have you.



  • @PeterJones

    …do the search-and-replace…

    Not sure the OP ever said anything about a replacement.
    Appears they just want a Find All in Current Document to have those search results pre-run and populated.



  • @Alan-Kilborn said in How to start a search automatically:

    Not sure the OP ever said anything about a replacement.

    You’re right, in OP posts, I only see “search”, not “replace”. That was my addition.

    @kaifuzi ,

    With that clarification, I will sum up my position:

    • Notepad++ doesn’t natively allow for automation of the search action from startup
    • PythonScript is the simplest solution to implement, but you seem to reject that extra step
      • if you are willing to use this solution, @Alan-Kilborn appears willing to give you a starting script; but he doesn’t look like he’ll put in the effort if it’s not likely you’ll use it
    • it might be possible with SendMessages
      • I’ve pointed you to the Notepad+±specific messages, especially the one for launching the Search dialog via a menu command
      • for manipulating the contents of the search dialog window, there are Windows messages which can handle that, assuming you can figure out the control IDs and craft the appropriate instructions to those dialog elements
      • this is a complicated solution, and I don’t have the time to do more research to hand it to you. If you can’t “do it successfully by [yourself]”, this may not be the best solution for you
    • if the search term is fixed, then you can record a macro, and even distribute the XML for that macro, and explain the steps to your users on how to edit their shortcuts.xml and run the macro themselves – not quite as automatic, but it’s the easiest to implement, overall, IMO.


  • @Alan-Kilborn @PeterJones Now I can use FindWindow to get Notepad++ window handle, and I can send message by SendMessage, but I checked the manual, there is only message NPPM_LAUNCHFINDINFILESDLG which I can find, I can’t use it to find all in current document. Do you have any idea? Thanks!



  • @kaifuzi said in How to start a search automatically:

    Using ShellExecute to start Notepad++ and open a certain file.
    Using SendMessage to start Search
    Using SendMessage to send search string to the Search text box
    Find all in current document.

    I may be more optimistic about this sequencing description. :-)
    It seems doable, but of course I am thinking about it from a Pythonscript perspective, not a purely “SendMessage” approach…
    If you have questions about specific portions as you do it, just fire away and we’ll try to answer.



  • @kaifuzi said in How to start a search automatically:

    NPPM_LAUNCHFINDINFILESDLG

    Notepad++ was not written with scripted control of the search dialog in mind.

    As I’ve said, you can use NPPM_MENUCOMMAND to launch any menu entry; the menuCmdID.h file in sourcecode shows all the menu command IDs that you would pass to the message. However, that just opens the dialog, it won’t let you populate it.

    There are other Windows API commands you could use to explore that dialog and fill it out, but it’s more complicated than we can help you through – those steps would be the same no matter what application the dialog is in, so it’s a general programming question, rather than Notepad++ specific. That’s where a GuiTest-style library would come in handy. We cannot write that for you.

    Again, if you are just using a fixed search string – always the same for every user – then recording and sharing the macro would seem the easiest solution.



  • @PeterJones said in How to start a search automatically:

    However, that just opens the dialog, it won’t let you populate it.

    You can populate it after you get a handle to it, using the dialog control IDs in FindReplaceDlg_rc.h.
    Set up your search text (still not 100% how you obtain that, in the final solution…) and then use code to “press” the Find All in Current Document button.
    It doesn’t sound “horrible”, but a bit of a devil in the details.

    if you are just using a fixed search string – always the same for every user – then recording and sharing the macro would seem the easiest solution.

    I continue to get the feeling that this is NOT the case.



  • @Alan-Kilborn said in How to start a search automatically:

    You can populate it after you get a handle to it, using the dialog control IDs in FindReplaceDlg_rc.h.

    I had never noticed that before. And now I know where the 1700 and similar IDs come from, as referenced in the search-and-replace macros docs. Thanks!

    I continue to get the feeling that this is NOT the case.

    And the OP continues to be mum on the subject, neither confirming nor denying, no matter how many times it is brought up. It is an answer that would definitely help craft any future discussion.

    However, at this point, I probably won’t weigh in much more, because you seem to understand the OP’s desires better than I do, and I don’t want to get in the way or muddle things any more.



  • @PeterJones @Alan-Kilborn I did it, thanks a lot for your help!!!
    I use FindWindow and FindWindowEx to get window handles which I need, then I use SendMessage to control them, with NPPM_MENUCOMMAND I can open Find dialog.



  • @Alan-Kilborn @PeterJones In fact, I sitll have a small issue. When I use ShellExexute to open a file by Notepad++, I don’t know when it’s ready, I mean I can get the handle of Notepad++. So I use a loop to wait, once the handle value of Notepad++ is greater than 0, then I think Notepad++ it’s ready, then I can start search. I’m not sure is there any other best way.



  • @kaifuzi said in How to start a search automatically:

    I did it, thanks a lot for your help!!!

    Well, that’s good.
    It is sort of tradition to provide more details in the form of code about your working solution, for those that read this later wanting to do the same or a similar thing.
    Not mandatory, though.


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