In this post, I want to share some nifty techniques that make my editing experience in Neovim smoother.

How do we select the current line, but not including the newline character?

In Neovim, if we want to select from the current cursor position to the end of the line, we usually use v$. However, the annoyance is that newline character will also be selected. We have to press h to move the cursor one character leftward.

How do we select only to the last character of the line? Fortunately, we can use g_ to do that. According to the documentation:

g_          To the last non-blank character of the line and
            [count - 1] lines downward |inclusive|.

To select from the cursor position to the last character of this line, we can use vg_.

There is also a selection option in Neovim that controls how the selection behaves. If we use set selection=exclusive, then the last character will not be included when we use $.


Case-changing operators

Neovim provides several shortcuts to change character cases quickly. All the following operations should be followed by motions (e.g., $, w, e etc.) or text objects:

  • g~: switch the case of character
  • gu: change characters to lower case
  • gU: change characters to upper case

The ys operator

Sometimes, we want to add a surrounding character to existing text objects. The ys operator provided by vim-surround is used for that purpose. To use it, the format is


Suppose we have the following texts, and we want to surround the word welcome with a pair of square bracket ([])

# * indicate cursor position
"wel*come to a new world"

our key stroke should be ysiw]1

The above texts now becomes:

"[welcome] to a new world"

If you want to surround "welcome to a new world" with (), you can use ysi")2

How do I check the help file of a keyword under the cursor?

When we are browsing the help file, we may want to check the doc for a keyword quickly. For example, when the cursor is in the keyword clipboard (keywords in the help files are colored as opposed to the regular text), how do we check its documentation immediately?

It is very simple: just press K, and you will go the documentation of the keyword. You can also press Ctrl+] to go to the documentation.

If you have enabled mouse support in nvim (set mouse=a), you can also double click the keyword open its documentation. If you are using mintty terminal, clicking the keyword while you are pressing Ctrl will also work.

By the way, to go back to previous position in the help file, press Ctrl+O or Ctrl+T.


Setting up textwidth in Nvim

For text files such as Markdown, LaTeX, we may want to restrict the line length to 80 characters at most for better readability. To set line length of the file, we should use textwidth option:

Maximum width of text that is being inserted. A longer line will be broken after white space to get this width. A zero value disables this

Add the following setting to your init.vim should work:

autocmd FileType text,markdown,tex setlocal textwidth=80

If we open an existing file, we will find that the file content isn’t changed automatically. It turns out that we have to manually format the existing texts. We can use gggqG to format the entire document. When you type new text, it will be correctly break at textwidth.


How to show the full path of current file?

You can use {count}Ctrl-G to show the full path of current buffer:

{count}CTRL-G           Like CTRL-G, but prints the current file name with
                        full path. If the count is higher than 1, the current
                        buffer number is also given.

To show only the full path of file, press 1 followed by Ctrl-G. To also show its buffer number, use a count higher than 1, e.g., 2<C-G>.


  1. iw means inner word object. ↩︎

  2. i" is a quote object. ↩︎