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How to sort using visual blocks

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Tip 588 Printable Monobook Previous Next

created 2003 · complexity basic · author Charles E. Campbell · version 6.0


To sort lines based on a visually-selected column, use Visual Block Sorting. It uses Piet Delport's Vim-based binary insertion sort and some Vim glue to provide visual-block sorts!

To enable it, put vissort.vim into your .vim/plugin directory.

To perform sorting with Vissort, based on a visual-block selection (Ctrl-v):

:'<,'>Vissort

If you're using Vim 7.0 or later, vissort.vim will use Vim's internal sort command rather than the binary insertion sort script.

To sort a visually-selected block (without changing text outside the block), use Visual Block Commands.

Look under "Visual Block Commands". The vis.vim plugin provides a command which allows other commands to be applied only to the visually selected block.

vis.vim can also be downloaded at script#1195.

To then perform sorting of just a visual-block (Ctrl-v):

:'<,'>B !sort

Or, using Piet Delport's binary insertion sort:

:'<,'>B Bisort

Of course, you can use Vim's internal sort if you're using Vim 7.0 or later, too:

:'<,'>B sort

Examples: Original, visual-block select the central column

one two three
four five six
seven eight nine
ten eleven twelve
:'<,'>Vissort
seven eight nine
ten eleven twelve
four five six
one two three
:'<,'>B !sort
one eight three
four eleven six
seven five nine
ten two twelve
:'<,'>B Bisort
one eight three
four eleven six
seven five nine
ten two twelve

CommentsEdit

vissort has been updated to version 3: it now has BlockSort() which permits one to sort blocks of text based on tags contained within them.


For Windows users only: Visual blocking is done with Ctrl-q. Do not use the arrow key to make the block, use only h-j-k-l.


The simple sample in the tip can be solved by native :sort command, no plugin required.

:sort /\s\+/

and for the visual blocking condition, you need not any plugin neither. e.g. if your Visuall Block start at visual colume 7, without selecting it, just execute

:sort /\%7v/

I have few plugins in my computer, for Vim is good enough!

Generally, visual block sorting can be done as following.

After selecting visual block, execute following command to sort on the selected text in the selected range:

:'<,'>sort /\ze\%V/

If you want to keep the text outside of visual block unchanged, just type

gvyugvp
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