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Word frequency statistics for a file

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Tip 1531 Printable Monobook Previous Next

created 2007 · complexity basic · author vale.smth · version 7.0

This tip shows how to generate a table of occurrence frequencies for every word in the current buffer, or in selected text. For example, the results may include the following which shows that "action" was used 12 times, "agree" 7 times, and so on:

action  12
agree   7
and     26

Using a dictionary


  • In Vim, copy the code shown below, then enter :@" to execute it (or put the code in your vimrc).
  • Press V then move the cursor to select the lines whose words you want to count.
  • Alternatively, select no lines, in which case all words in the buffer will be counted.
  • Type :WordFrequency and press Enter.

A new window will open with a scratch buffer showing the word frequencies.

function! WordFrequency() range
  let all = split(join(getline(a:firstline, a:lastline)), '\A\+')
  let frequencies = {}
  for word in all
    let frequencies[word] = get(frequencies, word, 0) + 1
  setlocal buftype=nofile bufhidden=hide noswapfile tabstop=20
  for [key,value] in items(frequencies)
    call append('$', key."\t".value)
  sort i
command! -range=% WordFrequency <line1>,<line2>call WordFrequency()

Using commands

The following alternative demonstrates the amazing power of Ex commands. This process replaces the current buffer with a word frequency table, so you should be working on a copy of your text.

Enter the following commands. In the third line, the "^A" represents Ctrl-A which needs to be entered by pressing Ctrl-V then Ctrl-A (if you use Ctrl-V for paste, press Ctrl-Q then Ctrl-A):

:sort i
:g/^\c\(.\+\)\n\1$/norm! $yiwj@"^Akdd

The first command replaces all sequences of not-word characters (including newlines, \_A\+) with "\t1\r" (a tab character, the digit 1, and a newline). The result leaves only words, each followed by a count of 1, with a single word per line.

The second command sorts the lines, ignoring case. The next step combines all lines containing the same word ignoring case.

The third command uses :g/// to flag each line which is followed by another line containing the same text (\1), ignoring case (\c). The given normal-mode command is then executed on each flagged line: $ moves to end-of-line, yiw copies inner word (the count); j goes down one line; @" effectively types the contents of the unnamed register (count copied from previous line), and that value is a repeat count for the Ctrl-A which increments the 1 that many times to accumulate the total; k goes up one line; dd deletes that line.

Possible mods:

  • use a more general substitute pattern for non-English texts: :%s/\%(\K\@!\_.\)\+/\t1\r/g
    This will keep all 'iskeyword' characters (except digits) instead of only letters.
  • at the end, add a command to sort after the counts: :sort! n /\t/
    ! - reverse sort, n - sort after numbers, /\t/ - only look at text right from the first Tab character


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