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Maybe I'm searching the wrong way, but I've failed to find out how to do this.

Here's the scenario: I have a list in a text file where I want to insert the same word on multiple lines, here's an example text:

12.1           Item1
12.2           Item2
12.3           Item3

Now I visual-block mark the 8th column, indicated with underscores below, and intend to replace part of the whitespace with Done without moving the item column:

12.1   _       Item1
12.2   _       Item2
12.3   _       Item3

I expected that I could go into replace mode, but I can only enter insert (I), append (A), or change-mode (c). The change-mode comes close to what I want: if I know the length of the word the block can be set to the same width.

Is there something I'm missing here?

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2 Answers 2

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Why don't you select 4 columns and hit c?


Also, you could use :h normal:

:'<,'>norm 7lRDone
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That works for Done, but what if I want to write something else, I want to be free from counting characters, if possible. – Thor Sep 11 '12 at 12:16
:norm is your friend, then. – romainl Sep 11 '12 at 12:20
Yes the second solution can be used for a convenient mapping. Thank you. – Thor Sep 11 '12 at 12:23

If you want to substitute within a visual block, you can use the vis.vim plugin.

To install:

Download vis.vba.gz from

# Open vis.vba.gz in Vim 7.1 or later.
vim vis.vba.gz

# Source the open file.
:so %

# Quit Vim

Once installed:

ctrl-v to enter visual-block mode
Move to select the block you want
:B s/pattern/newtext/

Even better, you can perform any Ex command on the visual block, not just substitutions. For example :B !sort.

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Nice plugin, I will be using it :-). But how can I use it to replace arbitrary columns? – Thor Nov 6 at 21:21
Right, you still have the problem of quickly setting the visual block width to match your arbitrary-width columns. I usually do <count> w or e to select several columns quickly, then adjust with h or l. – Christian Long Nov 6 at 21:42

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