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Overload a key with multiple handlers

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Tip 1558 Printable Monobook Previous Next

created 2008 · complexity basic · author Niels AdB · version 7.0

The following function can be used to maintain a list of handlers, to make handling a keypress in different contexts more dynamic.

function! RunHandlers(handler_list, default_action)
  for handler in a:handler_list
    execute "let handled = " handler."()"
    if handled
  execute a:default_action

This function calls a list of handlers until one returns true, indicating the event was handled. If no handler returns true, a default action is executed.

Take for example, the following CloseScratch function.

function! CloseScratch()
  if &buftype == "nofile" && &bufhidden == "hide" && !&swapfile
    return 1
  return 0

Using RunHandlers I can now dynamically overload <Esc> to call this function (in normal mode), like so:

" Default Escape and clear message line.
function! DefaultEsc()
  normal! "<Esc>"
  echo ""

let g:esc_handler = []
call add(g:esc_handler, "CloseScratch")
nnoremap <Esc> :call RunHandlers(g:esc_handler, "call DefaultEsc()")<CR>

Adding more handlers should be easy enough. In this case, CloseScratch is tried first, and if that fails DefaultEsc is called.


Try using :silent or <silent> rather than an empty echo to make the bottom line clear.

This is a pretty cool tip though! I like the idea of multiple things mapped to the same key.

I think the idea of echo "" is to clear the message line, for example, if you previously got a "Pattern not found" message.
I think you're right about the purpose, but I personally think it is better to avoid the message in the first place with :silent! or the 'e' option for searches. But I guess I'm just nitpicking.
Here is the idea: I search for 'fangle'. Oops, not found. So now there is a "Pattern not found" message on my screen. Some people (I am one of them) can't concentrate while prominent messages are displayed, so I have mapped Space to ':nohl' and ':echo ""'. I once tried to convince Bram that Esc should default to do exactly that because I've seen other people use Vim and go crazy while trying to remove no-longer wanted search highlights and messages. No one on vim_use could understand my POV.

Will someone please explain what DefaultEsc actually does!? I can understand the echo, and I know that normal! "<Esc>" will execute the normal command "press the Escape key" (without invoking any mapping for that key). But what does the Escape key do in normal mode (apart from beep/flash if you had them turned on)??

for example it cancels any typed v:count or v:register

I have improved the script, and I can see that it is potentially useful, but I think the tip is pretty disappointing without a realistic example of chaining a couple of handlers. --JohnBeckett 11:26, 9 May 2008 (UTC)

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