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VIM Tip of the Day: running external commands in a shell

By Selena Deckelmann · Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Tags: tips, vim

A common sequence of events when editing files is to make a change and then need to test by executing the file you edited in a shell. If you're using vim, you could suspend your session (ctrl-Z), and then run the command in your shell.

That's a lot of keystrokes, though.

So, instead, you could use vim's built-in "run a shell command"!

:!{cmd} Run a shell command, shows you the output and prompts you before returning to your current buffer.

Even sweeter, is to use the vim special character for current filename: %

Here's ':! %' is in action!

A few more helpful shortcuts related to executing things in the shell:

  • :! By itself, runs the last external command (from your shell history)
  • :!! Repeats the last command
  • :silent !{cmd} Eliminates the need to hit enter after the command is done
  • :r !{cmd} Puts the output of $cmd into the current buffer