How to edit all files containing a particular string

It's often useful to be able to automatically open all files with a particular string (say, to rename a variable throughout your code). To do this with ack, and open all files containing my_string in vim, just type:

vim $(ack -l my_string)

It can be accomplished in a similar way with grep instead of ack.

Edit: If you just want to search and replace a particular string in all files under some directory recursively, use

grep -rl matchstring somedir/ | xargs sed -i "" 's/search string1/search string2/'

It took me a while to find that the double quotes after -i are necessary on Mac OS X. And be aware that the single quotes above usually get mangled to be backticks when copying and pasting.

Edit 2: Don't do this in the root directory of a git repository! It will corrupt the repository.