Take the 2-minute tour ×
Super User is a question and answer site for computer enthusiasts and power users. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I have text files of poems with line numbers on the right that look like this:

Bedded in store of rotten fig-leaves soft,   40
And corded up in a tight olive-frail,   
Some lump, ah God, of lapis lazuli, 
Big as a Jew’s head cut off at the nape,    
Blue as a vein o’er the Madonna’s breast    
Sons, all have I bequeathed you, villas, all,        45

Where the spaces between the ends of the lines and the line numbers are not consistent. How can I move the numbers to a particular column, so that they line up?

share|improve this question

2 Answers 2

up vote 3 down vote accepted

A powerful method to solve problems with vim is to use macros and elementary commands, because those are simpler to remember then the vim scripting language.

In this case, I would place the cursor before number, which is the last word in the row (to do this: $b); insert a lot of spaces; remove the extraneous ones (if you want to use row 61, do: 061ldw); go to next line (to do this: j).

You first press qa to start recording macro "a", then press these keys above (and no others) and press q to finish recording. Now to use it, use @a for macro "a"; after that, keep pressing @@ (repeat last macro) until you get to the end of the text.

share|improve this answer
Thanks! I didn't think that dw would delete whitespace, or that 061l would get me to column 61, although that seems completely obvious now. –  Jon Feb 25 '12 at 4:12

I wanted to achieve basically the same but for certain characters in software code. The characters can appear anywhere on the line but I wanted them (and anything to the right of them) to appear on a specific column. For example:

refclkp : in std_logic;
refclkn : in std_logic;
hdinp_ch0 : in std_logic;
hdinn_ch0 : in std_logic;
hdoutp_ch0 : out std_logic;

I wanted it to look like this:

refclkp                    : in std_logic;
refclkn                    : in std_logic;
hdinp_ch0                  : in std_logic;
hdinn_ch0                  : in std_logic;
hdoutp_ch0                 : out std_logic;

I.e. with all the : on a specific column (column 30 in this case). The above didn't make sense to me (it may work but I don't use the visual stuff) but it did give me the clue to solving it:

:map H $?:<ctrl+Enter>Di                              <ctrl+Esc>029lP:s/\s*$//<ctrl+Enter>

You do the <ctrl+Enter> and <ctrl+Esc> bits by holding Ctrl+Q and then hitting Enter or Esc. It appears in the command as ^M or ^[. The above essentially does this:

  1. Go to the end of the line ($)
  2. look backwards for the first ":" (?:<ctrl+Enter>)
  3. Delete everything from this point to the end of the line (D)
  4. Insert 30 spaces - this is so I know there is enough white space to allow me to jump to column 30 (i <ctrl+Esc>)
  5. Jump to Column 30 - not sure why I need to use '29' here, must be a 'feature' (029l)
  6. Paste the deleted text from step 3 (P)
  7. Clean up by deleting all the trailing white spaces created in step 4 (:s/\s*$//<ctrl+Enter>)

I created this as a mapping so all I need to do now is hit H and the current line is modified!

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.