Insert special • characters ◆

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A while back, we wrote about how to insert non-printable and other special characters with <ctrl-v> in insert mode. But Vim has another way called digraphs. (See :help digraph). While in insert mode, you can insert special characters in Vim by pressing <ctrl-k> followed by a two-character lookup code. For example, <ctrl-k> ?2 will insert the approximately equal symbol: .

When would you use this? Note-taking for one. Write any kind of prose in Vim and you are sure to come across a use for a character that’s not on your keyboard: Currency symbols, dashes, bullets, and much more. Here are some you may find helpful. Notice how each two-letter combination (“di-graph”) is designed to be memorable. Certainly much easier than remembering numeric codes.

  • oo • (bullet)
  • Db ◆ (diamond bullet)
  • '% ϴ (Greek theta)
  • Pd £ (British pound symbols)
  • Co © (copyright symbol)
  • Rg ® (registered trademark symbol)
  • Eu € (euro symbol)
  • -1 ‐ (hyphen)
  • -N – (en dash)
  • -M — (em dash)

Vim provides a list of all digraphs available on your system (compilation options can affect the list) just by using the :dig command. In the screencast below, I show this mapping list and then insert a few characters with <ctrl-k>.

I’d love to know what other people use this for and which characters are the ones they reach for often. Email me or share a comment on the post.

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Written by

Colin Bartlett

81 Posts

Vim enthusiast and software developer for more than 20 years.
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