Jean-Denis Vauguet edited this page Apr 27, 2018 · 59 revisions

High speed tour from beginner to expert in 7 steps

To attract your attention, I'll first try to lift up your Vim level with only 7 steps!

  1. You know visual-mode
  2. Use TextObject
  3. Use better Operator
  4. Combine operator with text-object
  5. Modify operator's behavior by o to make it operate on occurrence
  6. Use preset-occurrence
  7. Use persistent-selection

0. Text to use in this tour

This is 1st paragraph text.
2nd line also include text text text.
3rd line include text text text

This is 2nd paragraph text.
2nd line also include text text text.
3rd line include text text text
4th text

1. You know visual-mode

Say you want to replace the whole 1st paragraph with abc.
You first select the paragraph using visual-mode.

  1. v j j $ or V j j.
  2. d to delete selected text.
  3. i to start insert-mode.
  4. Type abc then escape.

DONE. Well done.

2. Use TextObject

You can do better by using TextObject. You can select the whole paragraph with i p(inner-paragraph).

  1. v i p.
  2. d to delete selected text.
  3. i to start insert-mode.
  4. Type abc then escape.

DONE. Much better.

3. Use better Operator

You can do even better by using Operator. Instead of triggering delete on the selected text, then starting insert-mode with i, you can perform both steps at once with the change operator.

  1. v i p.
  2. c to change text. Whole paragraph gets deleted and you end up in insert-mode.
  3. Type abc then escape.

DONE. Much, much better.

4. Combine operator with text-object

You can do way better by not using visual-mode at all.

What's the benefit? You don't have to type v or V to start visual-mode, saving one keystroke.
You edit more declaratively than imperatively.
Instead of saying "select then mutate this selection", you could be saying "mutate this target" and leave the details to the vim backend. The more you get familiar with this flow (operator first, then target), the less you'll resort to using the visual-mode. On the bonus side, by going operator first, your operation becomes repeatable with .!
By repeating the same operator on successive targets, you can quickly apply the same editing transaction to different places (different paragraphs in this example).

  1. c i p to change inner-paragraph. Operator first, then target(TextObject).
  2. Type abc then escape.

DONE. Wow, the number of keystrokes was dramatically reduced!
And you may now apply the same editing intent to next paragraph, simply by moving the cursor to next paragraph then hitting . to reapply the operator!

5. Modify operator's behavior by o to make it operate on occurrence

New requirement… Instead of changing the whole paragraph to abc, you want to replace text, which appears in the 1st paragraph, with abc. That's when the o operator-modifier comes into play!

  1. Move the cursor to text in the 1st paragraph.
  2. c o i p, or c o p.
  3. Type abc then escape.

DONE. What happened?
The o is the operator-modifier, which alters an operator's default behavior.
The effect of o is that it re-selects the keyword under-cursor within the whole target area (the 1st paragraph in this case, due to p being the target) under the hood.
To gain a better understanding of this concept of using an operator in combination with occurrence, it might be easier first to thinking about operators and target in the following way: *instead of saying "Do this operation, on this target", let's instead say "Apply this operator to this target" (which the results in the same operation).
In this example, we're interested in "Apply change operator to this paragraph" instead of "Change this paragraph" From there, when occurrence gets involved, the sentence becomes: "Apply change operator to occurrences in this paragraph".

And of course, you may repeat the same edit-unit on the 2nd paragraph, with ..

6. Use preset-occurrence

Again, new requirement. You now also want to change the text and line keywords in the 1st paragraph to abc.
Now you have to replace two keywords at once.
You can achieve that by using preset-occurrence. Instead of typing o in the middle of your operation, you can pre-set occurrences with g o.

  1. Move cursor to text in the 1st paragraph.
  2. g o to preset-occurrence for text keyword.
  3. Move to the 2nd line over the line keyword, then g o.
  4. c i p or c p.
  5. Type abc then escape.

DONE. Since you performed a pre-set on the keywords occurences, your operator is applied to the text and the line keywords just the same. The benefit is that you can choose the operator after you have already decided the occurrence keyword, the target being the area to operate within as usual.

7. Use persistent-selection

New requirement! You want to replace line and text in both the 1st and the 2nd paragraphs.
But, you also want to exclude the 2nd line of the 2nd paragraph. Therefore, you cannot use the . powerful repeating trick! In this case, persistent-selection comes to the rescue.

  1. Create preset-occurrence for text and line keywords with g o.
  2. v i p to select the 1st paragraph, then j j to extend the selection to the 1st line of the 2nd paragraph.
  3. enter. The actual selection becomes a persistent-selection.
  4. j j to move to the 3rd line of the 2nd paragraph.
  5. V j to select 3rd and 4th lines of the 2nd paragraph.
  6. c to change preset-occurrences' keywords within the selection (which includes persistent-selection).
  7. Type abc.

You're now a super Vimmer!!

To sum it up:

  • The Operator is the verb of an operation.
  • The TextObject is the object of an operation.
  • An Operation is a full-fledged sentence in text editing in Vim, resulting in an edit/action.

Do practice with different verbs (Operator) and different objects (Motion or TextObject)!!
Train your finger and muscle memory until you can type without thinking, until you can transform text with minimum keystroke footprint!!

To complement your understanding, I strongly recommend you read Operator, the true power of Vim by kana.

8. Extra complex operation


  • Sample text is Atom's excerpt from vim-mode-plus's keymap definition.
  • Your mission is to transform string from '?': 'vim-mode-plus:search-backwards' form to SearchBackwards.
  • You have to do this for ALL lines in sample text, and finally sort all lines.
  • If I explain in imperative editing style, what you'll do is
    • Remove leading keystroke part including ending :.
    • Also you have to remove vim-mode-plus:
    • Also you have to remove line-ending '
    • Then you need to transform dash-case to DashCase form.
    • Finally sort all lines. and remove blank lines. `

Text before transform

'`': 'vim-mode-plus:move-to-mark'
"'": 'vim-mode-plus:move-to-mark-line'

'/': 'vim-mode-plus:search'
'?': 'vim-mode-plus:search-backwards'
'*': 'vim-mode-plus:search-current-word'
'#': 'vim-mode-plus:search-current-word-backwards'
'n': 'vim-mode-plus:repeat-search'
'N': 'vim-mode-plus:repeat-search-reverse'

'%': 'vim-mode-plus:move-to-pair'

')': 'vim-mode-plus:move-to-next-sentence'
'(': 'vim-mode-plus:move-to-previous-sentence'
# ')': 'vim-mode-plus:move-to-next-sentence-skip-blank-row'
# '(': 'vim-mode-plus:move-to-previous-sentence-skip-blank-row'

'[': 'vim-mode-plus:move-up-to-edge'
']': 'vim-mode-plus:move-down-to-edge'

'}': 'vim-mode-plus:move-to-next-paragraph'
'{': 'vim-mode-plus:move-to-previous-paragraph'

'G': 'vim-mode-plus:move-to-last-line'
'g g': 'vim-mode-plus:move-to-first-line'

'H': 'vim-mode-plus:move-to-top-of-screen'
'L': 'vim-mode-plus:move-to-bottom-of-screen'
'M': 'vim-mode-plus:move-to-middle-of-screen'

Text after transform


  • Assuming macOS keymaps
  • You need to enable incrementalSearch setting.
  1. Start incremental-search by /.
  2. Input .*plus: in the search field, confirm highlight (this is the target you will change).
  3. ctrl-cmd-c (change-occurrence-from-search which change matches of search), enter operator-pending mode, so you have to tell a target of operator.
  4. i e (inner-entire), to specify whole buffer as a target.
  5. You are now in insert-mode with multiple-cursors on each line. ctrl-e to move to EOL then ctrl-h to remove trailing single quotes '.
  6. escape to return to normal-mode. You have still multiple cursors.
  7. ctrl-s ( transform-string-by-select-list ) then select Pascalize and confirm by enter, then i W ( inner-whole-word ). A dash-case were transformed to a DashCase.
  8. g g to move to top of buffer. g s G. to sort (g s) from here-to-bottom-of-buffer (G).
  9. d i p removes consolidated(by sorting) blank rows.

It seems to be complex procedure, but it's matter of how much your finger is trained.
It's the same as swing practice in baseball, same as piano fingering, same as kata in karate.
Just train, let's train your finger muscle!!

Core concept of Vim: Two important role in editing.

In order to understand an advanced topic like occurrence-modifier, preset-occurrence, persistent-selection without difficulty, you must understand the very basic concept which consists of editing-in-the-vim-world.
So please patiently and carefully read the following short conceptual explanation.

In Vim editing, there are two very important key roles which compose your whole editing experience. The two key roles are Operator and Target.

  • Operator: Specify what to do. The verb. The verb which requires an object.
  • Target: Specify where, which to do. The target of the operator. The object for the verb.

So all of Vim editing is continuously telling vim to "Do what to which target".

  • Do what is expressed by Operator
  • Which target is expressed by Motion or TextObject

Operator demands target to specify on which area the operator operates

  • An operator require a target
  • If an operator does not have a satisfactory target, it enter operator-pending mode to get target from user. In other words, operator-pending mode is target-waiting mode.
  • Some operators are pre-targeted so they don't have to get the target from user (it won't enter operator-pending. e.g D is pre-targeted with $ motion. so D is short hand for d $.
  • Pre-targeted operators are good for less keystrokes but bad for flexibility, since they don't allow you to specify an arbitrary target you want to mutate.

What is a target?

  • A target is a range of text determined by Motion or TextObject.
  • TextObject defines target range (start and end position).
  • Motion is essentially used to move cursor, so it only define final-target-position (destination to move).
  • When Motion is used as target, current-cursor-position (here) is used as start; you can think motion-as-target like text-object with a range which extends from here-to-destination.
  • visual-mode is special. When you type an operator in visual-mode, it immediately mutate current-selection, In other words all operators used in visual-mode are pre-targeted (preset-target) to current-selection.

Operator modifier

To use operator-modifier, you insert keystroke between operator and target. Following text illustrate where or when you have to type operator-modifier.

# delete from-here-to-next-row in linewise
d   j
  ^ here

# delete from here-to-next-word in characterwise
d   w
  ^ here

# change inner-paragraph mutate whole paragraph
c   i p
  ^ here

In vmp, currently three operator-modifiers are available.(ctrl-v modifier is not yet supported.)

  • v: Force target range to characterwise range.
  • V: Force target range to linewise range.
  • o: Reselect occurrences of keyword within target range before applying operator.


# delete from-here-to-next-row in characterwise.(characterwise range, not whole two lines).
d v j
  ^ characterwise modifier is used.

# delete from here-to-next-word in linewise.(whole current line).
d V  w
  ^ linewise V modifier is used, target range become linewise.

# change all occurrence of keyword under-cursor appears in paragraph.
c o i p
  ^ o modifier pick cursor-word as occurrence, re-select it appearing in paragraph.

For o modifier, OccurrenceModifier

Advanced concept

Before starting explanation, here are some fancy GIFs to motivate you to learn these new way of editing.

Basic usage of preset-occurrence

Delete debug print console.log line in bulk.

Bulk delete text with arbitrary boundary using visual-mode.

Using persistent-selection to pre-specify operator's target


From v0.58.0.

  • Allow user to set target BEFORE operator.
  • Used as implicit target of operator. As like selection in visual-mode is used as implict target.
  • Config: autoSelectPersistentSelectionOnOperate (default=true) control to disable implicit targeting.
  • Keymap: In visual, enter to create-persistent-selection.
  • If you map c s to change-surround, I recommend you to change it, also change other keymaps starting with c. Otherwise, you have to wait timeout after typing c where you can immediately mutate persistent-selection.
  • Following two operation do the same thing, but former target is normal selection, later target is persistent-selection.
    • V j j c: change two three line.
    • V j j enter c: change three line.

Common use case

  • Work on multiple target without using mouse: set multiple target by persistent-selection then mutate.
  • Narrow target range to include particular set of occurrence.


From v0.58.0.

  • Allow user to set occurrence BEFORE operator.
  • Keymap: In normal, visual, g o to toggle-preset-occurrence.
    • It add/remove preset-occurrence at cursor position.
    • When removing, it remove one by one, not all.
  • Keymap: In incsearch input, cmd-o to add-occurrence-pattern-from-search
    • It add preset-occurrence by search-pattern.
  • Following two operation do the same thing, but former is operator-modifier, later is preset-occurrence(g o).
    • c o $: change cursor-word till end-of-line.
    • g o c $: change cursor-word till end-of-line.
  • I recommend user also try to enable stayOnTransformString, stayOnDelete feature, it fit well with occurrence editing.

preset-occurrence? vs persistent-selection?

  • preset-occurrence: Used to specify occurrence preliminarily. Instead of using o in the middle of operator, user can preset occurrence.
  • persistent-selection: Used to specify target preliminarily. As like in visual-mode, when you specify operator, operator immediately apply mutation on persistent-selection range.

When occurrence is exists, target is re-selected before applying operator to target.

  • occurrences is now new target, not original target range like paragraph itself.
  • Instead of mutate(by delete, change) whole paragraph, it mutate occurrences only.
  • As long as start or end point of occurrence is intersecting with target-range, vmp treats it as "target".
  • This inclusive tolerance allow user to apply selected set of occurrence using visual-mode or persistent-selection very roughly.

Operator just operate on target

  • Operator just works on target
  • Don't care if it was occurrence-reselected-target or was-normal-target
  • Just mutate target-range. That's it.

Useful operator and target(Motion, TextObject) used with occurrence.

Although all operator, motion, text-object is used with occurrence and preset-occurrence.
Following table list frequently used operator and target used with occurrence.
The more you familiar with these target, the more you can use occurrence naturally, fluently.
So train your finger until you can type without thinking, until you type from your muscle memory!!


Key Command Description
C change-to-last-character-of-line Change occurr from here to EOL
D delete-line Delete occurr from here to EOL


Key Command Description
$ move-to-last-character-of-line Same as D, But used with o modifier
^ move-to-first-character-of-line Opposite of $, here to HOL(Head of line)
G move-to-last-line Here to bottom of buffer
r replace Used with preset-occurrence and visual or persistent-selection
g g move-to-first-line From here to top of buffer.
H move-to-top-of-screen From here to visible top. Top row of screen.
L move-to-bottom-of-screen From here to visible bottom. Bottom row of screen.
M move-to-middle-of-screen From here to visible middle. Middle row of screen.
[ move-up-to-edge From here to upper edge
] move-down-to-edge From here to down edge
/ search From here to next search match.
? search-backwards From here to previous search match.
* search-current-word From here to next cursor-word match.
# search-current-word-backwards From here to previous cursor-word match.
} move-to-next-paragraph From here to next blank row.
{ move-to-previous-paragraph From here to previous blank row.


Key Command Description
i v inner-visible-area Visible screen are. Whole rows you can see in current screen view.
a v a-visible-area Same as i v. No behavior diff.
i e inner-entire Entire buffer.
a e a-entire Same as a e. No behavior diff.
i p inner-paragraph Consecutive non-blank rows.
i i inner-indentation Consecutive non-blank and equal or deeper indent level rows.
a i a-indentation Consecutive equal or deeper indent level rows includes blank-row.
i f inner-function Inner function area, not include first row(where parameter comes)
a f a-function Include whole function, better than i f to mutate occurrence
i l inner-current-line Current line text excluding leading and trailing spaces.
i z inner-fold Inner fold, nearest enclosed fold are, not include first row.
a z a-fold Same as i z but include first row.



I'll explain basic usage of preset-occurrence by using the following simple text.

This text have 3 instance of 'text' in the whole text
This text have 3 instance of 'text' in the whole text

Use with motion.

  1. Place cursor on first "text" occurrence.
  2. g o to mark it as preset-occurrence.
  3. Try with different operator with different target. by undo ing by u on each try.
  • C: change, three 'text' occurrences on 1st line.
  • d d: delete, three 'text' occurrences on 1st.
  • D: also delete, three 'text' occurrences on 1st.
  • c j: change, six 'text' occurrences on 1st line and 2nd line.
  • d j: delete, six 'text' occurrences on 1st line and 2nd line.

  1. Move to 'text' in the middle of 1st line.
  2. g o to mark it as preset-occurrence.
  3. Try with different operator with different target. by undo ing by u on each try.
  • C: change, two 'text' occurrences appears from here to EOL on 1st line.
  • c ^: change, two 'text' occurrences appears from here to HOL(head of line) on 1st line.
  • v j d: delete, four 'text' occurrences with exception of first and last 'text' occurrence.

Preset occurrence from visual area

  1. Select t char in visual-mode.
  2. g o to set that t char as occurrence
  3. d j delete all t char from two lines.

Preset occurrence by pattern match using /.

  • This feature, preset-occurrence-by-search-pattern is available only when you enabled incrementalSearch from setting view.

  1. Start incremental-search with /
  2. Search \bt\w+ which is pattern for word starting with t character.
  3. cmd-o, set preset-occurrence to pattern-matched text.
  4. d j delete every t starting word from two line.


Rename function parameters in bulk in refactoring,

For I f and A f in step 3 to work, you need to enable "keymap I and A to insert-at-start-of-target and insert-at-end-of-target when editor has preset-occurrence marker." config(from v1.4.0).

  1. Place cursor on to that parameter name.
  2. Mark that parameter name with g o
  3. Do whatever from following
  • c f or c a f to change same parameter name appears in current-function in bulk.
  • I f or I a f to insert start-of-each occurrence, which is useful when you want to prefix it.
  • A f or A a f to insert start-of-each occurrence, which is useful when you want to suffix it.

Change the explicit receiver to this in bulk when moving some set of logic into one method.

When you want to consolidate some messy code which always calling similar set of method in sequence, that mean you move some code into object's method.
Let's say you want to move logic that use mutation.getPoint(xxx), mutation.getMarker(xxx) in sequence to Mutation class's method to consolidate logic.

  1. Copy & paste under the new method definition of Mutation class
  2. Then select mutation.
  3. g o to create preset-occurrence. for text mutation.
  4. c f or c a f to change whole mutation. occurrences in function
  5. this. then escape.
  6. Now all mutation. is now replaced to this.getPoint(xxx), this.getMarker(xxx) to work in this new context.

Remove whole line.

You want to remove line which include console.log.

  1. Search (/)
  2. Input pattern: ^.*console\.log*\n.
  3. cmd-o set preset-occurrence to line include console.log
  4. d G delete every-console-log-line-from-here-to-end-of-buffer.

The point is 2nd step, use regex pattern to match whole line. (use ^ and \n)

Work with default cmd-d: Skipping become easy with persistent-selection

cmd-d is mapped to find-and-replace:select-next. Which select next occurrences of cursor-word one by one. cmd-k cmd-d skips current occurrence then select next, which is good to skip one occurrence, but not good when you want skip more.

Using persistent-selection, skipping words become very easy.

1st line text text
2nd line also include text text text.
3rd text text text
  1. Place cursor to first text in 1st line
  2. cmd-d twice to select next text in 1st line, but you want to skip 2nd line's text occurrence.
  3. Instead of type cmd-k cmd-d three times, type enter, which convert real selection to persistent-selection
  4. Move to 3rd line by 2 j 0 then cmd-d three times to select three text in 3rd line.
  5. Then do whatever you want. persistent-selection is treated like a real selection. Operator operate on persistent-selection if it exists in buffer.
  • c to change text except text in 2nd line.
  • d to delete text except text in 2nd line.
  • g U to upcase text except text in 2nd line.
  • s ( to to make text to (text) by surround(keymap is just an example when you map s to surround).