Making small changes

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Mastering Vim is all about efficiency of movement and editing. No matter the size or complexity of your edit, there is an optimal way in Vim. Even if you need a single-character change, Vim’s got your back. Perhaps you have a small typo. For example, the period below should be a comma.

When in Rome. do as the Romans do.

You could move your cursor to the character, enter insert mode with i, then backspace, enter . and exit insert mode with ESC. Or you could x to delete it first before entering insert mode.

But, of course, even for this small change Vim has a more efficient way: Enter r, the replace command.

Using r{char} we can replace the character under the cursor with {char} without ever leaving command mode. Most commonly, I combine this with f to jump to the character I wish to replace. For example, if I wish to replace that period with a comma and my cursor is at the beginning of the line, I use f.r,.

When you have to replace one character with another, Use the pattern f{char} r{replacement char} move your cursor to the next occurrence of {char} and replace it with {replacement char}.

You can also use a count before the r to replace multiple characters at once. For example, to make the next 10 characters into asterisks, use 10r*.

Lastly, try r followed by ctrl-e to replace the character under the cursor with the character from the line below. Or use ctrl-y to change the current character to the one from the line immediately above.

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Written by

Andy Libby

36 Posts

Rider of bicycles. Writer of code. User of Vim.
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