Working with Vim


See :help substitute Substitute allows you to search and replace using regular expressions. The command s/find/replace/g will replace “find” with “replace”, the s is for substitute, the g (global) option replaces every occurrence in a line, without the g it will only replace the first occurrence in a line.

Prefix the command with the range to work on, if no range is specified it will only search and replace on the current line.

The space between range and s is not necessary, but I find it more legible.

Use % to search and replace across the whole document:

:% s/find/replace/g

Use a line number range to replace all “find” with “replace” between lines 137 and 140:

:137,140 s/find/replace/g

You can define a range using VISUAL mode. First, highlight the area you want and then type : to go into command-line mode. Vim will automatically insert '<,'> this is it’s magical incantation to operate over the selection, leave it there. Next, type your substitute command s/find/replace

Besides search and replace, you can use g/find/d to delete all lines that match find, or v/find/d to delete all lines that do not match find.

Substitute Examples

Multiple Files

I found the easiest way to search and replace across multiple files is using the :argdo or :bufdo commands. To use, you first setup the files you want to operate against. For :argdo it uses the files on the argument list, for :bufdo it uses the current buffers list.

To setup the :args list, you can glob the files you want. For example, all markdown files :args **/*.md or all files :args **/*. You can see the files are the list, run :args with no parameters.

To run the substitute command across all the files, use:

:argdo %s/find/replace/g | update

This will run the given command, our substitute, across each file in the args list. The | update will save the file if any changes were made.

The same can be done with :bufdo for files in open buffers.