Vimscript: a search/replace shortcut

Updated 2 May 2019.

I love Vim, but one thing that drove me crazy for a long time was search/replace. It’s easy to search for the current word under the cursor - just press * in normal mode to start cycling through matches. But replacing that word can be annoying if it’s really long. You end up with a lot of keystrokes.


One way to save a few keystrokes is to yank mySuperLongVariableName and paste it into the search command. You can do this by yanking the text you want to replace (e.g. select in visual mode and press y), typing :%s/ to start the search, then pressing <c-r> followed by " to paste the search text.

But that’s still an annoying number of steps. I wrote the script below to start a search/replace command by simply pressing <c-s>. It grabs the current word under the cursor and prompts for the rest of the replace command. In other words, pressing <c-s> eliminates need to type :%s/mySuperLongVariableName/. Just fill out the rest.

function! SearchReplaceCurrentWord()
  let cword = expand('<cword>')
  let userInput = input(':%s/\<' . cword . '\>/')
  if len(userInput) > 0
    exe '%s/\<' . cword . '\>/' . userInput
noremap <c-s> :call SearchReplaceCurrentWord()<CR>

Update (2 May 2019): I ran into an issue with the original version of this script where I accidentally did a replace on a partial match. For instance, I tried to replace the word bar with barstool, but in doing so changed barometric to barstoolometric. Wrapping the search term in \< and \> instead (like :%s/\<this\>/that) tells Vim to replace whole-word matches only.