Tip 1599 Printable Monobook Previous Next

created 2008 · complexity basic · version 7.0

The :! command is useful for running shell commands from Vim. It has one possible drawback: the command output is not displayed in a Vim window, so it can't be accessed with Vim's powerful editing tools. This is easy to fix with :read !command which inserts the output to the current window. A possibly more sophisticated solution is to make a new Vim command which opens a scratch buffer for the output of shell command. Here's an example:

command! -complete=shellcmd -nargs=+ Shell call s:RunShellCommand(<q-args>)
function! s:RunShellCommand(cmdline)
  echo a:cmdline
  let expanded_cmdline = a:cmdline
  for part in split(a:cmdline, ' ')
     if part[0] =~ '\v[%#<]'
        let expanded_part = fnameescape(expand(part))
        let expanded_cmdline = substitute(expanded_cmdline, part, expanded_part, '')
  botright new
  setlocal buftype=nofile bufhidden=wipe nobuflisted noswapfile nowrap
  call setline(1, 'You entered:    ' . a:cmdline)
  call setline(2, 'Expanded Form:  ' .expanded_cmdline)
  call setline(3,substitute(getline(2),'.','=','g'))
  execute '$read !'. expanded_cmdline
  setlocal nomodifiable

The new :Shell command works just like :! except that it opens a Vim scratch buffer and prints the command output there. The scratch buffer will be wiped out completely when it's closed. An example of usage:

:Shell ls -la

The idea can be extended by adding shortcut commands for commonly used shell commands. This example adds some common version control tools:

command! -complete=file -nargs=* Git call s:RunShellCommand('git '.<q-args>)
command! -complete=file -nargs=* Svn call s:RunShellCommand('svn '.<q-args>)
command! -complete=file -nargs=* Bzr call s:RunShellCommand('bzr '.<q-args>)
command! -complete=file -nargs=* Hg  call s:RunShellCommand('hg '.<q-args>)

Now the version control tools can be used like this from Vim:

:Git add %                (The "%" expands to the current filename)
:Svn diff -c 1234
:Bzr log -l 10
:Hg annotate %

Enhanced scriptEdit


  • I think the original script (above) has some problems:
    • fnameescape() should be shellescape().
    • Using fnameescape() may insert a backslash which interferes with the substitute().
    • On Windows, using %:p for file C:\path\file results in C:pathfile.
    • Won't work with spaces in filename? Even if quoted?
  • Check if following enhanced script fixes problems.
  • Does it work?
  • Perhaps replace above script with the following.
command! -complete=shellcmd -nargs=+ Shell call s:RunShellCommand(<q-args>)
function! s:RunShellCommand(cmdline)
  let isfirst = 1
  let words = []
  for word in split(a:cmdline)
    if isfirst
      let isfirst = 0  " don't change first word (shell command)
      if word[0] =~ '\v[%#<]'
        let word = expand(word)
      let word = shellescape(word, 1)
    call add(words, word)
  let expanded_cmdline = join(words)
  botright new
  setlocal buftype=nofile bufhidden=wipe nobuflisted noswapfile nowrap
  call setline(1, 'You entered:  ' . a:cmdline)
  call setline(2, 'Expanded to:  ' . expanded_cmdline)
  call append(line('$'), substitute(getline(2), '.', '=', 'g'))
  silent execute '$read !'. expanded_cmdline

See alsoEdit


Following is refactored text that was posted on talk page.

Thanks, the part I took away from this tip was the shortcut command (command!), and passing all the arguments as the first argument. This will make for some clean helper functions when used with abbreviations (in your .vimrc):

ca shell Shell

so you can do this:

:shell ls -al

Jearsh 06:28, February 13, 2010 (UTC)

More on this concept is at Replace a builtin command using cabbrev. JohnBeckett 02:41, February 18, 2010 (UTC)

Another enhanced scriptEdit

function! s:ExecuteInShell(command)
  let command = join(map(split(a:command), 'expand(v:val)'))
  let winnr = bufwinnr('^' . command . '$')
  silent! execute  winnr < 0 ? 'botright new ' . fnameescape(command) : winnr . 'wincmd w'
  setlocal buftype=nowrite bufhidden=wipe nobuflisted noswapfile nowrap number
  echo 'Execute ' . command . '...'
  silent! execute 'silent %!'. command
  silent! execute 'resize ' . line('$')
  silent! redraw
  silent! execute 'au BufUnload <buffer> execute bufwinnr(' . bufnr('#') . ') . ''wincmd w'''
  silent! execute 'nnoremap <silent> <buffer> <LocalLeader>r :call <SID>ExecuteInShell(''' . command . ''')<CR>'
  echo 'Shell command ' . command . ' executed.'
command! -complete=shellcmd -nargs=+ Shell call s:ExecuteInShell(<q-args>)

Usage: :Shell ls -al

Only one window by command, if a window already exists for a command, it will be reused.

Possible to reexecute the command by typing <localleader>r in normal mode in a window opened by :Shell.

<localleader>g go to the previous window.

The command :Shell! reexecute the last command.

Last version available at

Another way Edit

I do this:

:tabe|read !git blame #

You have to use # where you would normally use %, but other than that this should work well. -- YEARtheDRAGON June 29, 2016

Yet another way Edit

I use a slightly different syntax to open in a split in the current window.

:set splitright | vnew | r!somecommand

If you prefer horizontal splits you can use

:set splitbottom | new | r!somecommand

The setting of the split direction is probably "permanent" for the length of your session, but I usually just set it in my .vimrc because I prefer to have newer files on the right or bottom.

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