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Is there a way to let Emacs' regexp based commands such query-replace-regexp use Perl regexp?

I am hoping there is some reasonably simple way to achieve this, for example, by adding code in .emacs.

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Sorry, no, there isn't. Almost all features of Perl regular expressions are available, though; see the info manual, under Top > Search > Regexps for details on what the Emacs version of the same syntax is.

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