Vim Find Next

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In Vim, the previous action can be repeated with the dot command. This is how Vim power users can get so much done so quickly: Structuring their operations into commands that can simply be repeated with a tap of the . character. The gn command is one oft-overlooked Vim command (added in version 7.4) that can help build repeatable replacement operations.

To find a matching pattern in Vim, we simply use the / command. Type /foo and Vim will find the next reference to “foo” in your text and move your cursor there. From here, we can perform any kind of replacement. For example we could change the word with cw by typing cwbar<Esc> to change the word to “bar”. Now, we can press n to go to the next “foo” match and press . to repeat the same change.

But gn gives us an even better way. Read the :help gn docs for the full details but here’s the short summary: Pressing gn will jump forward to the next match of the last used search pattern and visually select it. We can prepend this with c for “change” to get cgn which will find the next match of the previously used search pattern, select it, and enter insert mode. Then we can type our replacement and press <Esc>. To repeat this, we only have to press . instead of n and . — shortening our action to a single key press.

Vim Search Next Example

Watch the demo to see this in action. Here’s what I do:

  • / million – Finds the first match of ” million”
  • cgn – Changes the next match of my pattern
  • M USD<Esc> – My replacement pattern
  • Then I just press . to repeat it

Vim Find Next Reverse (Vim Search Previous)

There is another variation of this, gN, which does the same thing in reverse. So if you want to change progressively backwards from your cursor position through the file, use that gN.

You can combine gn with all kinds of other commands, too. Try dgn to delete the next match — repeatable, of course, with just a dot.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does gn do in Vim?

The gn command in Vim searches forward for the last used search pattern and then enter visual mode and select the last match.

How do I use the Vim gn command to find next?

To use gn in Vim, first make a search using the / command. Then you can press gn and Vim will take you to the next match and visually select it automatically.

How do I use the Vim gN command to find previous?

To use gN in Vim, first make a search using the / command. Then you can press gN and Vim will take you to the previous match and visually select it automatically.

What are the Vim gn help docs?

gn Search forward for the last used search pattern, like with n, and start Visual mode to select the match. If the cursor is on the match, visually selects it. If an operator is pending, operates on the match. E.g., dgn deletes the text of the next match. If Visual mode is active, extends the selection until the end of the next match.

wrapscan applies

Note: Unlike n the search direction does not depend on the previous search command.

What are the Vim gN help docs?

Like gn but searches backward, like with N

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Written by

Colin Bartlett

101 Posts

Vim enthusiast and software developer for more than 20 years.
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