Regular Expressions in Dreamweaver

Using the "Find and Replace" tool in Adobe DreamWeaver is useful of course, but you aren't using a fraction of the power until you use REGEX.

DreamHost Quick Solutions

Remove everything from tag except tag


becomes Find all <(p|h1|h2|h3|h4|h5|h6|span|div|body)[^>]+> Replace with $1

Find all and tags. Also find style td tags.


Find all and tags. Also works for .


Get rid of all style="" inline CSS.


Regular expressions are patterns that describe character combinations in text. Use them in your code searches to help describe concepts such as "lines that begin with ‘var'" and "attribute values that contain a number." The following table lists the special characters in regular expressions, their meanings, and usage examples. To search for text containing one of the special characters in the table, "escape" the special character by preceding it with a backslash. For example, to search for the actual asterisk in the phrase some conditions apply*, your search pattern might look like this: apply*. If you don't escape the asterisk, you'll find all the occurrences of "apply" (as well as any of "appl", "applyy", and "applyyy"), not just the ones followed by an asterisk.

Literal Expressions

In the land of regular expressions, all digitals and alphabetic characters match themselves. These are referred to as literal expressions, simple expressions, or simple sequences. In other words, searching using a regular expression that only contains alphanumeric characters produces the results in a normal, non-regular expression.

Matching using literal expressions has severe limitations. For example, imagine that you want to find only cases of the term "San" in which "San" occurs in either the first three characters of a line or the last three characters of a line. With literal expressions alone, this would not be possible. Enter regular expression special characters.

Special Characters

Special characters, sometimes referred to as metacharacters, are reserved, non-alphanumeric characters that provide special types of functionality. There are approximately 11 of these special characters that are summarized in the following table along with examples.

Character Matches Example
^ Beginning of input or line ^T matches "T" in "This good earth" but not in "Uncle Tom's Cabin"
$ End of input or line h$ matches "h" in "teach" but not in "teacher"
* The preceding character 0 or more times um* matches "um" in "rum", "umm" in "yummy", and "u" in "huge"
+ The preceding character 1 or more times um+ matches "um" in "rum" and "umm" in "yummy" but nothing in "huge"
? The preceding character at most once (that is, indicates that the preceding character is optional) st?on matches "son" in "Johnson" and "ston" in "Johnston" but nothing in "Appleton" or "tension"
. Any single character except newline .an matches "ran" and "can" in the phrase "bran muffins can be tasty"
X|y Either x or y FF0000|0000FF matches "FF0000" in bgcolor="#FF0000" and "0000FF'" in font color="#0000FF"
{n} Exactly n occurrences of the preceding character o{2} matches "oo" in "loom" and the first two o's in "mooooo" but nothing in "money"
{n,m} At least n, and at most m, occurrences of the preceding character F{2,4} matches "FF" in "#FF0000" and the first four F's in #FFFFFF

Note: The above table was originally published in the Dreamweaver product help (Help > Using Dreamweaver).

Or Statement

A vertical bar (also known as a pipe character) is used to indicate that either the pattern before or after matches. An example would be:


This expression would match either the word "style" or "class."


In the table above, special characters help specify how often a character is allowed to repeat. These are the *, +, and ? characters. The * character indicates that the preceding character occurs zero or more times. The + character, similarly, will match one or more instances of the preceding character. The ? character will match the previous character one or more times”€that is, the preceding character is optional.

Character Classes

Character classes provide you with a way to restrict the characters you are searching for to a certain set by wrapping those characters in brackets.

Character Matches Example
[abc] Any one of the characters enclosed in the brackets. Specify a range of characters with a hyphen (for example, [a-f] is equivalent to [abcdef]). [e-g] matches "e" in "bed", "f" in "folly", and "g" in "guard"
[^abc] Any character not enclosed in the brackets. Specify a range of characters with a hyphen (for example, [^a-f] is equivalent to [^abcdef]). [^aeiou] initially matches "r" in "orange", "b" in "book", and "k" in "eek!"
b A word boundary (such as a space or carriage return). bb matches "b" in "book" but nothing in "goober" or "snob"
B Anything other than a word boundary. Bb matches "b" in "goober" but nothing in "book"
d Any digit character. Equivalent to [0-9]. d matches "3" in "C3PO" and "2" in "apartment 2G"
D Any nondigit character. Equivalent to [^0-9]. D matches "S" in "900S" and "Q" in "Q45"
w Any alphanumeric character, including underscore. Equivalent to [A-Za-z0-9_]. bw* matches "barking" in "the barking dog" and both "big" and "black" in "the big black dog"
W Any non-alphanumeric character. Equivalent to [^A-Za-z0-9_]. W matches "&" in "Jake&Mattie" and "%" in "100%"
s Any single white-space character, including space, tab, form feed, or line feed. sbook matches "book" in "blue book" but nothing in "notebook"
S Any single non“white-space character. Sbook matches "book" in "notebook" but nothing in "blue book"
f A form feed character. --
n A line feed character. --
r A carriage return character.

Note: Dreamweaver MX 2004 contains a bug in its regular expression engine where carriage return characters (r) are not recognized when you click the Find Next button. However, clicking the Find All button does reveal these characters.

t A tab character. --

By combining repetition, special characters, existing character classes as well as defining new custom classes, web developers can create complex expressions that can be shared with friends and colleagues.

For example, imagine that in an HTML page you wanted to strip out any extra space that trails a
. You notice that in some cases in your code, the line break tag appears with a space character after the "br" like so:
. In other cases, you notice that a co-worker has actually two or three extra space characters or maybe even a tab character.

Without regular expressions, for each possible combination, you would need to specify a string of text. By leveraging the power of regular expressions, you can create a single pattern to match all of these cases. An example would be:

Character Matches
Three string literals, a less-than sign followed by "br" followed by zero or more instances of white-space characters, including spaces, tabs, form feeds, or line feeds

Special characters when combined with literal expressions and other special characters provide infinite options for web developers to construct regular expressions.

Control+Enter or Shift+Enter (Windows), or Control+ Return or Shift+Return or Command+ Return (Macintosh) Return character. Make sure that you deselect the Ignore Whitespace Differences option when searching for this, if not using regular expressions. Note that this matches a particular character, not the general notion of a line break; for instance, it doesn't match a
tag or a

tag. Return characters appear as spaces in Design view, not as line breaks.

Use parentheses to set off groupings within the regular expression to be referred to later. Then use $1, $2, $3, and so on in the Replace With field to refer to the first, second, third, and later parenthetical groupings. NOTE In the Search For text box, to refer to a parenthetical grouping earlier in the regular expression, use 1, 2, 3, and so on instead of $1, $2, $3. For example, searching for (d+)/(d+)/(d+) and replacing it with $2/$1/$3 swaps the day and month in a date separated by slashes, thereby converting between American-style dates and European-style dates.

Regular Expressions in Dreamweaver article at

Adobe Article on Regular Expressions for Dreamweaver by Rob Christensen

  1. Introduction
  2. Background on Regular Expressions
  3. Regular Expressions 101
  4. Exercise: Your First Regular Expression
  5. Matching Closing Tags Using an Optional Character
  6. Using the Not Operator to Match Tag Attributes and Values
  7. Exercise: Using Subexpressions to Replace Content
  8. Searching for CSS Inline Styles
  9. Tips and Tricks
Common Usages
  • Data validation in web forms
  • Processing log files
  • Updating content
  • Extending Dreamweaver
  • Cleaning up HTML/CSS code