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Search for visually selected text

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Revision as of 20:02, September 1, 2013 by Kurkale6ka (Talk | contribs)

Tip 171 Printable Monobook Previous Next

created 2001 · complexity basic · author Raymond Li · version 6.0

With this tip, you can select some text, then press a key to search for the next occurrence of the text. Two alternative methods are presented.


  • Press * to search forwards for selected text, or # to search backwards.
  • As normal, press n for next search, or N for previous.
  • Handles multiline selection and search.
  • Whitespace in the selection matches any whitespace when searching (searching for "hello world" will also find "hello" at the end of a line, with "world" at the start of the next line).
  • Each search is placed in the search history allowing you to easily repeat previous searches.
  • No registers are changed.

Place the following mappings in your vimrc:

" Search for selected text, forwards or backwards.
vnoremap <silent> * :<C-U>
  \let old_reg=getreg('"')<Bar>let old_regtype=getregtype('"')<CR>
  \escape(@", '/\.*$^~['), '\_s\+', '\\_s\\+', 'g')<CR><CR>
  \gV:call setreg('"', old_reg, old_regtype)<CR>
vnoremap <silent> # :<C-U>
  \let old_reg=getreg('"')<Bar>let old_regtype=getregtype('"')<CR>
  \escape(@", '?\.*$^~['), '\_s\+', '\\_s\\+', 'g')<CR><CR>
  \gV:call setreg('"', old_reg, old_regtype)<CR>

Following is an alternative version with some extra features:

  • A global variable (g:VeryLiteral) controls whether selected whitespace matches any whitespace (by default, VeryLiteral is off, so any whitespace is found).
  • Type \vl to toggle VeryLiteral to turn whitespace matching off/on (assuming the default backslash leader key).
  • When VeryLiteral is off, any selected leading or trailing whitespace will not match newlines, which is more convenient, and avoids false search hits.

Create file (for example) ~/.vim/plugin/vsearch.vim (Unix) or $HOME/vimfiles/plugin/vsearch.vim (Windows) with contents:

" Search for selected text.
let s:save_cpo = &cpo | set cpo&vim
if !exists('g:VeryLiteral')
  let g:VeryLiteral = 0

function! s:VSetSearch(cmd)
  let old_reg = getreg('"')
  let old_regtype = getregtype('"')
  normal! gvy
  if @@ =~? '^[0-9a-z,_]*$' || @@ =~? '^[0-9a-z ,_]*$' && g:VeryLiteral
    let @/ = @@
    let pat = escape(@@, a:cmd.'\')
    if g:VeryLiteral
      let pat = substitute(pat, '\n', '\\n', 'g')
      let pat = substitute(pat, '^\_s\+', '\\s\\+', '')
      let pat = substitute(pat, '\_s\+$', '\\s\\*', '')
      let pat = substitute(pat, '\_s\+', '\\_s\\+', 'g')
    let @/ = '\V'.pat
  normal! gV
  call setreg('"', old_reg, old_regtype)

vnoremap <silent> * :<C-U>call <SID>VSetSearch('/')<CR>/<C-R>/<CR>
vnoremap <silent> # :<C-U>call <SID>VSetSearch('?')<CR>?<C-R>/<CR>
vmap <kMultiply> *

nmap <silent> <Plug>VLToggle :let g:VeryLiteral = !g:VeryLiteral
  \\| echo "VeryLiteral " . (g:VeryLiteral ? "On" : "Off")<CR>
if !hasmapto("<Plug>VLToggle")
  nmap <unique> <Leader>vl <Plug>VLToggle
let &cpo = s:save_cpo | unlet s:save_cpo


The first suggested mapping was:

vnoremap <silent> * :<C-U>
  \let old_reg=getreg('"')<Bar>let old_regtype=getregtype('"')<CR>
  \escape(@", '/\.*$^~['), '\_s\+', '\\_s\\+', 'g')<CR><CR>
  \gV:call setreg('"', old_reg, old_regtype)<CR>

When in visual mode, pressing * will then perform these commands:

let old_reg=getreg('"')<Bar>let old_regtype=getregtype('"')<CR>
  escape(@", '/\.*$^~['),
:call setreg('"', old_reg, old_regtype)<CR>

:<C-U> enters command mode and deletes (Ctrl-u) the '<,'> range automatically inserted due to the visual selection. The unnamed register (@") is saved and later restored.

gvy reselects then yanks the visual selection (copy to @").

/<C-R><C-R>= starts a search, then substitutes the expression register (@=) literally :help c_CTRL-R_CTRL-R. The result of the following expression is inserted into the command line.

escape() inserts a backslash before each /\.*$^~[ character found in @". The / must be escaped because we are using a / command. The other characters need to be escaped because they have a special meaning in a regular expression.

substitute() replaces every sequence of one or more whitespace characters (space, tab, newline) with an escaped regular expression that will search for any similar sequence.

gV allows the mappings to work in --SELECT-- mode as well as --VISUAL--. Without gV, searching for text in select mode would not move the cursor because the selection is automatically reselected after the mapping.

Paste contents of search register (/) in insert/cmdline mode

When using ^r/ in INSERT mode what one most of the time wants is to paste the litteral text not the regex used to search the text. Example: after using * on a word, ^r/ will paste the word with \< prepended and \> appended, not what we want. Similarly after a visual search we don't want the \V prepended. The following map takes care of these issues:

function! Del_word_delims()
   let reg = getreg('/')
   " After *                i^r/ will give me pattern instead of \<pattern\>
   let res = substitute(reg, '^\\<\(.*\)\\>$', '\1', '' )
   if res != reg
      return res
   " After * on a selection i^r/ will give me pattern instead of \Vpattern
   let res = substitute(reg, '^\\V'          , ''  , '' )
   let res = substitute(res, '\\\\'          , '\\', 'g')
   let res = substitute(res, '\\n'           , '\n', 'g')
   return res
noremap! <silent> <c-r>/ <c-r>=Del_word_delims()<cr>

See also


Tips related to visual searching (need to merge):

This mapping forms a substitute command with the selected text:

vnoremap <C-r> "hy:%s/<C-r>h//gc<left><left><left>

Found on Stack Overflow: Vim replace selected text.

To auto escape certain characters (e.g. slash and backslash), one can use:

vnoremap <C-h> ""y:%s/<C-R>=escape(@", '/\')<CR>//g<Left><Left>

this is fantastic! --guest

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