Tip 605 Printable Monobook Previous Next

created 2003 · complexity basic · author Yang Xiangyu · version 6.0

A common requirement, particularly when programming, is to copy or delete text from one location, and use what was copied or deleted to replace text in one or more other locations. This tip describes how this operation is performed using standard Vim techniques, and with some tricks that may make it easier.

How to copy/pasteEdit

Copy a word and paste it over other words:

yiw Yank inner word (copy word under cursor, say "first").
... Move the cursor to another word (say "second").
viwp Select "second", then replace it with "first".
... Move the cursor to another word (say "third").
viw"0p Select "third", then replace it with "first".

Copy a line and paste it over other lines:

yy Yank current line (say "first line").
... Move the cursor to another line (say "second line").
Vp Select "second line", then replace it with "first line".
... Move the cursor to another line (say "third line").
V"0p Select "third line", then replace it with "first line".

Deleting, changing and yanking text copies the affected text to the unnamed register (""). Yanking text also copies the text to register 0 ("0). So the command yiw copies the current word to "" and to "0.

Typing viw selects the current word, then pressing p pastes the unnamed register over the visual selection. The visual selection that was just replaced is then stored in the default unnamed register.

As you can see in the examples above, if you want to paste the same thing a second time, then you must use the "0 register, as in viw"0p. A workaround is to remap the p command in visual mode so that it first deletes to the black hole register like so:

xnoremap p "_dP

Note, using P in the remap replicates the default visual mode p function. Feel free to test. And you'd use xnoremap instead of vnoremap, according to the docs. Now you don't have to worry about pasting from the "0 register each subsequent time.

However, this remapping prevents you from pasting from other registers in visual mode. So viw"ap to paste from the "a register is now broken. This script may solve that. Alternatively, I guess you could use a leader key instead such as:

let mapleader=","
xnoremap <leader>p "_dP

And then the workflow would be: yiw, move, viw,p, move again, viw,p, etc

A more natural alternative to the above: The behavior of xnoremap p "_dP is not exactly the same as p when pasting over selected last word(s) in the line or over last line(s) in the buffer because vim cannot move cursor beyond last character in line (or last line in buffer) and P yanked text as the last char (or last line), because P pastes *BEFORE* the cursor. The result is that when pasting over the last word the pasted text is *DOES NOT* become the last word (or line), but is being followed by last character after the deletion _d. Pasting over words/lines in the middle works as expected .

To get a more natural and consistent behavior like the default p, but without overwriting the register we can simply paste and then restore the main register:

xnoremap <silent> p p:let @"=@0<CR>


xnoremap <silent> p p:let @+=@0<CR>

when using unnamedplus (I use it as my main register as well as OS clipboard with set clipboard=unnamedplus)


xnoremap <silent> p p:let @+=@0<CR>:let @"=@0<CR>

to restore both unnamed and unnamedplus.

Using a text objectEdit

Instead of using copy/paste, it is often better to use a text object command such as ciw to change the inner word. This method has the advantage of being easily repeatable using the . repeat command.

yiw Yank inner word (copy word under cursor, say "first").
... Move the cursor to another word (say "second").
ciw<C-r>0 Change "second", replacing it with "first" (<C-r> is Ctrl-R).
... Move the cursor to another word (say "third").
. Change "third", replacing it with "first".


  • Use with clipboard @+
  • Explain: Use register 2 to insert previously deleted text: diw"2P

This process works with any selected text, although it works best if:

  • The yanked text is characterwise and the replaced text is selected characterwise; or
  • The yanked text is linewise and the replaced text is selected linewise; or
  • The yanked text is blockwise and the replaced text is selected blockwise.

Typing yiw (yank inner word) is an example of a characterwise copy, while yy (yank current line) is an example of a linewise copy.


With this mapping, you can press S to replace the current word with the last yanked text. You can repeat the operation to replace words at different locations (move to another word and press S, then move to another word and press S, and so on). Each time you press S, the yanked text is "stamped" over the current word.

nnoremap S diw"0P

The S command is then not available – use the equivalent cc command instead.

An alternative mapping uses the black hole register ("_) for the deletion so the unnamed register is not changed:

nnoremap S "_diwP

The alternative replaces the current word with the last text that was yanked or deleted. This means that you can copy or delete text from one location, then use that text to replace words in multiple other locations. However, if you delete any more text (for example, if you press x to delete an unwanted comma), the ability to easily use the previously-deleted text is lost.

In addition to the above, you could use the following to replace visually selected text with the last yanked text. Again, you can quickly repeat this by selecting some more text and pressing S to make the same change.

vnoremap S "_d"0P

If you want to replace visually selected text with the last yanked or deleted text, use:

vnoremap S "_dP


To replace the last searched text with the last yanked text in the entire buffer, use:


See search and replace.

From tip 1011Edit

For those who use visual mode, here are some commands and mappings that may be useful:

Type gv to reselect the previous visual area.

Copy the current word or visually selected text to the clipboard:

nnoremap <F4> "+yiw
vnoremap <F4> "+y

Replace the current word or visually selected text with the clipboard contents:

nnoremap <F5> viw"+p
vnoremap <F5> "+p

Prepare a :substitute command using the current word or the selected text:

nnoremap <F6> yiw:%s/\<<C-r>"\>/<C-r>"/gc<Left><Left><Left>
vnoremap <F6> y:%s/\<<C-r>"\>/<C-r>"/gc<Left><Left><Left>

One key <F7> does everything. Good for inter-window copying and pasting.

vmap <F7> "+ygv"zy`>
"paste (Shift-F7 to paste after normal cursor, Ctrl-F7 to paste over visual selection)
nmap <F7> "zgP
nmap <S-F7> "zgp
imap <F7> <C-r><C-o>z
vmap <C-F7> "zp`]
cmap <F7> <C-r><C-o>z

"copy register
autocmd FocusGained * let @z=@+

See alsoEdit

Related PluginsEdit

  • ReplaceWithRegister plugin to replace text covered by a motion, entire line(s) or the current selection with the contents of a register; more versatile and covers corner cases better than simple mappings
  • YankRing - Maintains a history of previous yanks, changes and deletes
  • yankstack - It allows you to yank and delete things without worrying about losing the text that you yanked previously. It effectively turns your default register into a stack, and lets you cycle through the items in the stack after doing a paste. This plugin is intended to be a simpler alternative to the YankRing plugin.
  • vim-easyclip - This plugin solves that problem by redirecting all change and delete operations to the black hole register and introducing a new operator, 'cut' (by default this is mapped to the m key for 'move').




  • Prune out any misguided information.
  • That will leave some notes on copying a word (or selected text) and pasting it to replace another word (or selected text).
  • There will also be some notes on visual mode which should be moved elsewhere (possibly 1584).


I hope some of these can be merged, while others will be "see also".

Copy/paste tips:

I'm parking the copy/paste list here; later will work out which is "main" copy/paste tip and will move list there. JohnBeckett 11:24, September 28, 2009 (UTC)

I'd like for this tip to remain about copy/paste as it relates to visual mode, and we should have at least one other (separate) tip on the system clipboard (maybe more than one if specific systems have problems). One more that is a general "how to copy/paste" that also discusses use of registers would be good too. I don't want to see too much combination though, or the tip will probably become too big. --Fritzophrenic 16:27, October 1, 2009 (UTC)

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