In vim one can get to the 5th byte of the file with the following command:

:goto 5

However, in a UTF-8 text this could be the 5th, 4th, or even 2nd character in the file. How to go to the 5th character, not byte, of a file?

2 Answers 2


You can start from the beginning of the buffer, and use search() to match N characters. The only pitfall is considering the newline characters, too. Here's a custom gco mapping that does this:

function! s:GoToCharacter( count )
    let l:save_view = winsaveview()
    " We need to include the newline position in the searches, too. The
    " newline is a character, too, and should be counted.
    let l:save_virtualedit = &virtualedit
        let [l:fixPointMotion, l:searchExpr, l:searchFlags] = ['gg0', '\%#\_.\{' . (a:count + 1) . '}', 'ceW']
        silent! execute 'normal!' l:fixPointMotion

        if search(l:searchExpr, l:searchFlags) == 0
            " We couldn't reach the final destination.
            execute "normal! \<C-\>\<C-n>\<Esc>" | " Beep.
            call winrestview(l:save_view)
            return 0
            return 1
        let &virtualedit = l:save_virtualedit
" We start at the beginning, on character number 1.
nnoremap <silent> gco :<C-u>if ! <SID>GoToCharacter(v:count1 - 1)<Bar>echoerr 'No such position'<Bar>endif<Bar><CR>

Note that this counts just one character for the CR-LF combination in buffers that have 'fileformat' set to dos.

  • This is absolute magic, Ingo! Thank you very much, I always learn from your posts.
    – dotancohen
    Jun 16, 2014 at 17:03
  • Hannah just splits the ages of my own two daughters, and as you know the name is used in Hebrew as well as Japanese. If you and your loved every visit Israel, there is a cold beer waiting for you and two friendly girls who would love to play!
    – dotancohen
    Jun 16, 2014 at 17:09

What about just gg0 to go to the first character in the file, then 4l to go work your way 5 characters in? I suppose this may fail if you have empty lines or if you want to count linebreaks.

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