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VIM Macros

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vi Macros

Simple description of the various 'vi' macro mechanisms

  1. text abbreviation, which operates only in text-entry mode 
        (the "abbr" ex-escape command); once set, an abbreviation works only in "vi" 
        text-entry mode; 
  2. keystroke remapping, which can operate either in 
        text-entry or in command mode (the "map!" and "map" ex-escape commands); 
        once set, a "map!"'ed sequence is triggered only in text-entry mode, and a "map"'ed 
        sequence is triggered only in "vi" command mode; 
  3. text-buffer execution, which operates only in command 
        mode: once text has been placed in any of the named text buffers, that text 
        can be executed as if it were a sequence of 'vi' commands. 

Text abbreviation

Using macros during text-entry is almost always motivated by the goal of just saving keystrokes. The text-abbreviation macro in 'vi' is set up by going to "ex-escape" mode by typing a colon, and has the form


where an example might be

abbr gatt General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade

[Note that the name of the text abbreviation cannot contain an embedded space. This is a limitation of all the 'vi' macro mechanisms except for text- buffer execution, which uses the names of the named text buffers to define which macro to execute; a buffer name is a single alphabetic letter.]

Once this is done, then while in text-entry mode, whenever you type a non-alphanumeric character followed by the string "gatt", 'vi' will examine the next character you type to see if it's non-alphanumeric, and if so, then "gatt" will be erased and "General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade" will be substituted for it. (Typing "gatt" at the very top of your text qualifies as a non-alphanumeric character followed by "gatt".)

If you don't want a particular instance of "gatt" to get converted, even though it's preceded and followed by a non-alphanumeric character, you have to escape the first character following "gatt" by typing


(that is control-V), so if you want "gatt!" to appear, you type


With text abbreviations, your text appears as you type it, and no transformation is performed on your specified abbreviation until you follow it with a non-alphabetic character (which includes an immediate exit from text-entry mode). This differentiates text abbreviation from text-mode keystroke-remapping using the "map!" command, which will be discussed soon. Text abbreviations can be canceled with the ex-escape "unabbr" command:  

unabbr gatt

Most simple abbreviations can be unabbreviated via a simple ex-escape command, the kind you introduce by typing a colon from 'vi' command mode. But many cannot, especially mode-bouncing abbreviations, to be discussed later. For these, you must enter genuine "ex" mode by typing a capital Q ("Q") from 'vi' command mode. Then do your "unabbr gatt". To return to "vi" mode, enter "vi" or "visual" at the "ex" colon prompt.

You can get a list of your currently active abbreviations by entering simply "abbr" in ex-escape mode.


Vi macros for writing HTML -- yes, there are masochists that use VI for writing HTML :-)

Directory of -pub-vi-macros

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Old News ;-)

[Oct 21, 2018] What is vim recording and how can it be disabled?

Oct 21, 2018 |

vehomzzz, Oct 6, 2009 at 20:03

I keep seeing the recording message at the bottom of my gvim 7.2 window.

What is it and how do I turn it off?

Joey Adams, Aug 17, 2010 at 16:26

To turn off vim recording for good, add map q <Nop> to your .vimrc file. – Joey Adams Aug 17 '10 at 16:26

0xc0de, Aug 12, 2016 at 9:04

I can't believe you want to turn recording off! I would show a really annoying popup 'Are you sure?' if one asks to turn it off (or probably would like to give options like the Windows 10 update gives). – 0xc0de Aug 12 '16 at 9:04

yogsototh, Oct 6, 2009 at 20:08

You start recording by q<letter> and you can end it by typing q again.

Recording is a really useful feature of Vim.

It records everything you type. You can then replay it simply by typing @<letter> . Record search, movement, replacement...

One of the best feature of Vim IMHO.

Cascabel, Oct 6, 2009 at 20:13

As seen other places, it's q followed by a register. A really cool (and possibly non-intuitive) part of this is that these are the same registers used by things like delete, yank, and put. This means that you can yank text from the editor into a register, then execute it as a command. – Cascabel Oct 6 '09 at 20:13

Tolga E, Aug 17, 2013 at 3:07

One more thing to note is you can hit any number before the @ to replay the recording that many times like (100@<letter>) will play your actions 100 times – Tolga E Aug 17 '13 at 3:07

anisoptera, Dec 4, 2014 at 9:43

You could add it afterward, by editing the register with put/yank. But I don't know why you'd want to turn recording on or off as part of a macro. ('q' doesn't affect anything when typed in insert mode.) – anisoptera Dec 4 '14 at 9:43

L0j1k, Jul 16, 2015 at 21:08

Vim is so freakin' cool, man. – L0j1k Jul 16 '15 at 21:08

Cascabel, Jul 29, 2015 at 14:52

@Wade " - it's called the default register. – Cascabel Jul 29 '15 at 14:52

ephemient, Oct 6, 2009 at 20:17

Type :h recording to learn more.
                           *q* *recording*
q{0-9a-zA-Z"}           Record typed characters into register {0-9a-zA-Z"}
                        (uppercase to append).  The 'q' command is disabled
                        while executing a register, and it doesn't work inside
                        a mapping.  {Vi: no recording}

q                       Stops recording.  (Implementation note: The 'q' that
                        stops recording is not stored in the register, unless
                        it was the result of a mapping)  {Vi: no recording}

@{0-9a-z".=*}           Execute the contents of register {0-9a-z".=*} [count]
                        times.  Note that register '%' (name of the current
                        file) and '#' (name of the alternate file) cannot be
                        used.  For "@=" you are prompted to enter an
                        expression.  The result of the expression is then
                        executed.  See also |@:|.  {Vi: only named registers}

Tim Henigan, Oct 6, 2009 at 20:07

It sounds like you have macro recording turned on. To shut it off, press q .

Refer to " :help recording " for further information.

Related links:

mitchus, Feb 13, 2015 at 14:16

Typing q starts macro recording, and the recording stops when the user hits q again.

As Joey Adams mentioned, to disable recording, add the following line to .vimrc in your home directory:

map q <Nop>

n611x007, Oct 4, 2015 at 7:16

only answer about "how to turn off" part of the question. Well, it makes recording inaccessible, effectively turning it off - at least noone expects vi to have a separate thread for this code, I guess, including me. – n611x007 Oct 4 '15 at 7:16

JeffH, Oct 6, 2009 at 20:10

As others have said, it's macro recording, and you turn it off with q. Here's a nice article about how-to and why it's useful.

John Millikin, Oct 6, 2009 at 20:06

It means you're in "record macro" mode. This mode is entered by typing q followed by a register name, and can be exited by typing q again.

ephemient, Oct 6, 2009 at 20:08

It's actually entered by typing q followed by any register name, which is 0-9, a-z, A-Z, and ". – ephemient Oct 6 '09 at 20:08

Cascabel, Oct 6, 2009 at 20:08

Actually, it's q{0-9a-zA-Z"} - you can record a macro into any register (named by digit, letter, "). In case you actually want to use it... you execute the contents of a register with @<register>. See :help q and :help @ if you're interested in using it. – Cascabel Oct 6 '09 at 20:08

[Oct 21, 2018] What are the dark corners of Vim your mom never told you about?

community wiki 2 revs, 2 users 94% ,Jan 20, 2015 at 23:14

Macros can call other macros, and can also call itself.



...will delete the first word from every line until the end of the file.

This is quite a simple example but it demonstrates a very powerful feature of vim

Kimball Robinson, Apr 16, 2010 at 0:39

I didn't know macros could repeat themselves. Cool. Note: qx starts recording into register x (he uses qq for register q). 0 moves to the start of the line. dw delets a word. j moves down a line. @q will run the macro again (defining a loop). But you forgot to end the recording with a final "q", then actually run the macro by typing @q. – Kimball Robinson Apr 16 '10 at 0:39

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Last modified: October 26, 2018