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Cut/copy and paste using visual selection

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created 2002 · complexity basic · author rainbrot · version 6.0


Visual selection, although common in applications today, is a key feature that differentiates vim from traditional vi.

To cut (or copy) and paste using visual selection:

  1. Position the cursor at the beginning of the text you want to cut/copy.
  2. Press v to begin character-based visual selection (or upper case V to select whole lines, or Ctrl-v for a vertical block).
  3. Move the cursor to the end of the text to be cut/copied. (While selecting text, you can perform searches and other advanced movement, a feature that sets vim apart from most other editors.)
  4. Press d (as in "delete") to cut, or y (as in "yank", which I imagine meaning "yank so hard and fast that it leaves a copy behind") to copy.
  5. Move the cursor to the desired paste location.
  6. Press p to paste after the cursor, or P to paste before.

In gvim, visual marking (steps 1-3) can be replaced by selecting text using a mouse or similar pointing device, although I strongly prefer to navigate using the keyboard.

Bonus tip: To replace the selected text with new text (to be entered by you), press 'c' instead of 'd' or 'y' on step 4. This deletes the selection and leaves you in insert mode. Then, instead of (or prior to) steps 5-6, type your replacement text.

Pasting over a block of text

You can copy a block of text by pressing Ctrl-v (or Ctrl-q if you use Ctrl-v for paste), then moving the cursor to select, and pressing y to yank. Now you can move elsewhere and press p to paste the text after the cursor (or P to paste before). The paste inserts a block (which might, for example, be 4 rows by 3 columns of text).

Instead of inserting the block, it is also possible to replace (paste over) the destination. To do this, move to the target location then press 1vp (1v selects an area equal to the original, and p pastes over it).

When a count is used before v, V, or ^V (character, line or block selection), an area equal to the previous area, multiplied by the count, is selected. See the paragraph after :help <LeftRelease>.

Note that this will only work if you actually did something to the previous visual selection, such as a yank, delete, or change operation. It will not work after visually selecting an area and leaving visual mode without taking any actions.

Comments

NOTE: after selecting the visual copy mode, you can hold the shift key while selection the region to get a multiple line copy. For example, to copy three lines, press V, then hold down the Shift key while pressing the down arrow key twice. Then do your action on the buffer.

I have struck out the above new comment because I think it is talking about something that may apply to those who have used :behave mswin. To visually select multiple lines, you type V, then press j (or cursor down). You hold down Shift only to type the uppercase V. Do not press Shift after that. If I am wrong, please explain here. JohnBeckett 10:48, October 7, 2010 (UTC)

If you just want to copy (yank) the visually marked text, you do not need to 'y'ank it. Marking it will already copy it.

Using a mouse, you can insert it at another position by clicking the middle mouse button.

This also works in across vim applications on Windows systems (clipboard is inserted)


This is a really useful thing in Vim. I feel lost without it in any other editor. I have some more points I'd like to add to this tip:

  • While in (any of the three) Visual mode(s), pressing 'o' will move the cursor to the opposite end of the selection. In Visual Block mode, you can also press 'O', allowing you to position the cursor in any of the four corners.
  • If you have some yanked text, pressing 'p' or 'P' while in Visual mode will replace the selected text with the already yanked text. (After this, the previously selected text will be yanked.)
  • Press 'gv' in Normal mode to restore your previous selection.
  • It's really worth it to check out the register functionality in Vim: ':help registers'.
  • If you're still eager to use the mouse-juggling middle-mouse trick of common unix copy-n-paste, or are into bending space and time with i_CTRL-R<reg>, consider checking out ':set paste' and ':set pastetoggle'. (Or in the latter case, try with i_CTRL-R_CTRL-O..)

You can replace a set of text in a visual block very easily by selecting a block, press c and then make changes to the first line. Pressing <Esc> twice replaces all the text of the original selection. See :help v_b_c.


On Windows the <mswin.vim> script seems to be getting sourced for many users.

Result: more Windows like behavior (ctrl-v is "paste", instead of visual-block selection). Hunt down your system vimrc and remove sourcing thereof if you don't like that behavior (or substitute <mrswin.vim> in its place, see VimTip63.

With VimTip588 one can sort lines or blocks based on visual-block selection.


With reference to the earlier post asking how to paste an inner block

  1. Select the inner block to copy usint ctrl-v and highlighting with the hjkl keys
  2. yank the visual region (y)
  3. Select the inner block you want to overwrite (Ctrl-v then hightlight with hjkl keys)
  4. paste the selection P (that is shift P) , this will overwrite keeping the block formation

The "yank" buffers in vim are not the same as the Windows clipboard (i.e., cut-and-paste) buffers. If you're using the yank, it only puts it in a vim buffer - that buffer is not accessible to the Windows paste command. You'll want to use the Edit | Copy and Edit | Paste (or their keyboard equivalents) if you're using the Windows GUI, or select with your mouse and use your X-Windows cut-n-paste mouse buttons if you're running UNIX.


Double-quote and star gives one access to windows clippboard or the unix equivalent. as an example if I wanted to yank the current line into the clipboard I would type "*yy

If I wanted to paste the contents of the clippboard into vim at my current curser location I would type "*p

The double-qoute and start trick work well with visual mode as well. ex: visual select text to copy to clippboard and then type "*y

I find this very useful and I use it all the time but it is a bit slow typing "* all the time so I am thinking about creating a macro to speed it up a bit.


Copy and Paste using the System Clipboard

There are some caveats regarding how the "*y (copy into System Clipboard) command works. We have to be sure that we are using vim-full (sudo aptitude install vim-full on debian-based systems) or a vim that has X11 support enabled. Only then will the "*y command work.

For our convenience as we are all familiar with using Ctrl+c to copy a block of text in most other GUI applications, we can also map Ctrl+c to "*y so that in Vim Visual Mode, we can simply Ctrl+c to copy the block of text we want into our system buffer. To do that, we simply add this line in our .vimrc file:

map <C-c> "+y<CR>

Restart our shell and we are good. Now whenever we are in Visual Mode, we can Ctrl+c to grab what we want and paste it into another application or another editor in a convenient and intuitive manner.

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