How can I run Unix commands while I'm inside vim?


Go to command mode Esc, then run :!unix_command. Anything run from the : prompt starting with a bang ! will be run as a unix shell command. You'll be shown the output and allowed to hit a key to get back to your work in vim.

If you have text selected in visual mode and want to send it TO a command as STDIN, hit !! and enter your command. The results of the command will replace the text you have selected.

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    Also, !! without any text selected will let you run a command and then insert the result at your current cursor position -- no need to send stuff to STDIN and replace it if you don't need/want to. – Kromey May 18 '11 at 23:36
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    also, if you simply want to put the output of a command in your document, simply do :r!unix_command. This is usefull for commands such as date – Yab May 19 '11 at 6:01
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    You can also execute multiple lines of your vi buffer by the shell (or any interpreter) and have them replaced by the result of the execution. eg: :10,20!sh or, form marked lines, 'a,'b!sh – jlliagre May 19 '11 at 11:58
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    Something else that I think is worth noting is that this depends on the OS you're using. If you're using Windows, it'll execute a Windows shell command. Many people reading this will already know that, but for people coming from Google, I thought it would be worth mentioning. – Andrew Oct 21 '16 at 13:11
  • @Kromey can you clarify how to use !!? When I run :!! - it just run previous command, but output not stored in buffer or in opened file. – skywinder Sep 9 at 8:48

From a VIM help mirror:

:shell        :sh[ell]        start a shell
:!            :!{command}     execute {command} with a shell
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In addition to the above answers, you can use the current vim buffer content as stdin for shell command using :%!.

For example, suppose you want to filter lines from the current vim window content to contain only those with substring ca inside them. You could use:

:%! grep ca

Which will automatically filter the lines, placing the grep output instead of the current lines.

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