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I'm trying to use VIM for Word Processing situations where, for example, I might need to put the date at the 70th column of a line that has no other text on it. So, for example, if there's currently no text on line 1 and I want to insert something at column 70, the only way I know how to get to column 70 is by hitting the space bar while in insert mode, a very slow process.

Is there a way to do what I'm trying to achieve in VIM? i.e. to jump ahead to a particular column in a blank line. Even if I could do something like 70l (move 70 spaces to the right) would be amazing, but it doesn't work on a line without any text.

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up vote 8 down vote accepted

You could also consider virtualedit which allows you to pace the cursor any where regardless of if there is a character there.

Use (short form set ve=all)

:set virtualedit=all

to enable it. Then use 70| to go to the 70 column. Take a took at :help 'virtual edit'

To turn it off use :set virtualedit= (Short form set ve=)

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thanks, it's great but how to unset, doesn't say in docs, set novirtualedit doesn't do it, nor does set novirtualedit=all – BrainLikeADullPencil Aug 30 '14 at 2:26
This is a great answer, I did not know about the virtualedit option! @BrainLikeADullPencil: the default is set virtualedit=, with no arguments. (edit - oh, he mentions that in the answer too, I suppose it was edited to contain this information) – Valmiky Arquissandas Aug 31 '14 at 0:22

You can do 70i followed by esc (that's 70ispacebarEsc).

For the specific case you mention - adding the date on the 70th column:

  • 69ispacebarEsc$

    This will create 69 spaces and the cursor will be on the 69th column;

  • :r !date Enter

    This will copy the output of the date command into the edit buffer (on the next line);

  • backspaceJ

After this step, you have the date, starting on the 70th column.

There probably is an easier way, but at least this one works for sure.

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really nice thanks. I'll see what others come up with before I accept – BrainLikeADullPencil Aug 29 '14 at 22:55
What is backspace Jactually telling VIM to do? I see that it works in this situation but would like to know the instruction it's giving – BrainLikeADullPencil Aug 29 '14 at 23:02
If you accept it, great! But even if this isn't the accepted answer, if you find it worthy, you can always upvote it ;) – Valmiky Arquissandas Aug 29 '14 at 23:03
I voted it up (as also the answer by @adam), will wait to accept – BrainLikeADullPencil Aug 29 '14 at 23:04
backspace is just my way of moving to the previous line. You can also use the k character to do the same thing (but backspace moves it to the end of the previous line, which is intuitively what I wanted to do, even if it isn't actually necessary). J joins the current line with the next one, effectively making them a single, larger line. Since the :r command inserts the output in the next line, I had to join them. – Valmiky Arquissandas Aug 29 '14 at 23:05

Not the prettiest way to do it, but you can modify the shiftwidth, which is the size of a single tab. In command mode type in :set shiftwidth=1 and then type in what you want at column 70, then use the command: V (uppercase ´v´) to highlight your current line and then type 70>. That should tab your text over 70 columns.

Then after that, it might be a good idea to set your shiftwidth back to 4, to make tabbing more consistent. Unless this is a task you do pretty often and you have no use for tabbing.

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hmm, I have a WordPressing function that I can toggle (see I guess I could put the shift width in there and then it will revert back when I leave WP mode – BrainLikeADullPencil Aug 29 '14 at 22:51
This is a good idea, but only if you have the :set expandtab activated, so that you actually write 70 spaces, instead of a single tab character. – Valmiky Arquissandas Aug 29 '14 at 23:02

Another way can be to set tabstop to 70 and set expandtab to expand tabs to spaces:

:se ts=70
:se et

And then you can hit the tab key to get to the 70th column.

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