Mark Chavez

Mark Chavez

Learning how to learn.

Introduction to Vim Macros

February 02, 2019

What’s a Vim Macro?

A vim macro is simply a recorded series of commands. It can be used to effectively repeat complex commands quickly without the hassle of typing more keystrokes. Essentially, it allows you to save time and focus on the problem at hand. To be able to teach you how this work, let me show you a real-world example.

Converting a series of names to a Hash

Open a new file called names_and_ages.txt or any filename you prefer. Make sure the contents of the file is equal to the one below.

# names_and_ages.txt

Mark 20
Michael 18
Erik 15
Joni 10

Our end goal is to format every line to look like this:

# names_and_ages.txt

{ name: "Mark", age: 20 }
{ name: "Michael", age: 18 }
{ name: "Erik", age: 15 }
{ name: "Joni", age: 10 }

When this is done, you’ll notice that a recording text will show up at the bottom of your vim editor. This means that whatever you do after will get recorded to that macro. Press q again in NORMAL mode and the macro is now available for use. To run the macro, press @f where f is the name of your macro.

Recording the Macro

To record a macro, you press q in NORMAL mode followed by a character of your choice. For example, qf will start to record a macro registered to f. You can end the recording by going back to NORMAL mode and pressing q once again.


Applying the Macro

We can apply the macro in two ways:

(1) Running the macro manually on a per-line basis. To do this, we press qf in NORMAL mode for each line since we registered the macro using the f key.


(2) Running the macro for all lines in a single command. We can do this by running <x>qf in NORMAL mode where x is the number of times you want to run it. In our example we only need to run it three more times so the command would be 3qf.


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