External.exe allows using an external editor from any Windows application.
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External.exe allows using an external editor from any Windows application. It was originally developed by Ben Collerson, starting from discussions around Vim tip 805.

With version 0.3 and with permission from Ben, External.exe has been updated from GPLv2 to GPLv3 and hosting has moved.

Example Use Case

  1. In a web browser's text entry box you hit a keyboard shortcut, such as Windows-V.

  2. The current contents of the text entry box open in a text editor, for example Notepad.

  3. You edit the text and save your changes.

  4. After exiting Notepad, the edited text is automatically copied back into the browser's text area.

The key combination as well as the text editor may be freely configured.

Installation and Configuration

After downloading and unpacking the software, ensure that the files external.exe and external.ini are in a directory together.

Open external.ini in a text editor and set the options Editor and !EditorBinding as explained in the comments in the file.

The program can be started by manually running the external.exe command. But once you get a configuration you like you may want to place a shortcut in your Start/Programs/Startup folder so it will be automatically executed.

Tip: When configuring external.exe it can be useful to use the Restart (Shift-Ctrl-Alt-R) and Exit (Shift-Ctrl-Alt-X) bindings to reconfigure your program.


To use the program, once it is configured and running, move the cursor to the text area of an application and type your !EditorBinding keystroke (Windows-V, for example)


Provided with the program is a Vim script external.vim. This file can be installed by putting it in your Vim plugin folder. With an appropriately configured Editor option in external.ini Vim will be able to recognize the filetype of the text you are editing by using the application window title as a clue.

external.vim has so far only been tested on a small number of applications and filetypes, but it should be relatively easy to add new filetypes by modifying the External() function in the script.

Compilation from source code

  1. Install AutoIt v3 or compatible.

  2. Compile external.au3 to external.exe:

    Aut2exe.exe /in external.au3 /out external.exe /icon logo.ico /x86 /gui
  3. And/Or compile a version for 64 bits:

    Aut2exe_x64.exe /in external.au3 /out external_x64.exe /icon logo.ico ^
        /x64 /gui


Author: Ben Collerson <benc at bur dot st>
Contributor: Felix E. Klee
Last Modified: 06 Oct 2015
Version: 0.3.1
Logo: Based on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:External.svg (public domain)

Copyright (C) 2005–2015 Ben Collerson <benc at bur dot st>, Felix E. Klee

This file is part of External.exe.

External.exe is free software: you can redistribute it and/or modify it under the terms of the GNU General Public License as published by the Free Software Foundation, either version 3 of the License, or (at your option) any later version.

This program is distributed in the hope that it will be useful, but WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY; without even the implied warranty of MERCHANTABILITY or FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE. See the GNU General Public License for more details.

You should have received a copy of the GNU General Public License along with this program. If not, see http://www.gnu.org/licenses/.