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How to Insert Unicode Characters in Neovim/Vim

··697 words·4 mins·
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Except for the ASCII characters, it is often not straightforward to insert Unicode characters into Vim/Neovim. Below I will summarize a few ways to enter Unicode characters inside Neovim/Vim.

I assume that you are using UTF-8 encoding (:set encoding=utf-8), and you are using a font with proper support for Unicode symbols, e.g., nerd-fonts. Otherwise, some Unicode characters shown below may not show correctly on your terminal.

Use Ctrl-V to insert character

The native way to insert a Unicode character is via Ctrl + V. In insert mode, we first press Ctrl + V, and then for Unicode characters whose code points1 are less than:

  • ffff (in hex format): press u ( lower case), followed by its four-digit hex representation.
  • 7fffffff (in hex format): press U ( upper case), followed by its eight-digit hex representation.

For example, to insert the middle dot symbol (·), we can press <C-v>u00b7 or <C-v>ub7 followed by ESC. To insert the crying cat emoji (😿), we can press <C-v>U0001f63f2 or <C-v>U1f63f followed by ESC.

Use special escape sequence notation

We can also use special escape sequence to represent a character. To represent middle dot in the above section, use \u00b7 or \ub7. To represent the cry cat, use \U0001f63f or \U1f63f. Backspace is \b and Escape is \e.

For more details, see :h string.

Use plugin unicode.vim

To ease manipulation of Unicode characters, there is also a plugin called unicode.vim.

Unicode.vim provides an enhanced version of the built-in ga (see :h ga) operation. To use it, add the following setting to init.vim:

nmap ga <Plug>(UnicodeGA)

It also provides several useful commands:

  • :UnicodeName: show the Unicode info about character under cursor.
  • :UnicodeSearch: search a Unicode character. It supports regular expression. For example, to search Unicode character containing CAT, we can use :UnicodeSearch \<CAT\>. The bang version (:UnicodeSearch!) can also insert the chosen character into cursor position.

Insert-mode completion

Unicode.vim also provides insert mode completion for Unicode characters. We can type some character in the name of Unicode character, and press <C-X><C-Z> (i.e., Ctrl+X followed by Ctrl+Z). Alternatively, we can also provide the Unicode code point of a character and press <C-X><C-Z>.

For example, to insert middle dot, we can:

  • type dot, and press <C-X><C-Z> (A completion menu will pop up with candidate character).

  • type U+00b7, and press <C-X><C-Z>.

If you have fzf installed, you can also activate the fuzzy search feature to search Unicode (see :h unicode-fuzzy-insertion).

Use digraphs

Vim/Neovim also provides a feature called digraphs (see :h digraphs). Some non-printed character or commonly-used Unicode characters can be easily inserted using this feature. The command :digraphs will print the pre-defined digraphs table, like the following:

PI ¶  182    pp ¶  182    .M ·  183    ~. ·  183    ', ¸  184    1S ¹  185
A' Á  193    A> Â  194    A^ Â  194    A? Ã  195    A~ Ã  195    A: Ä  196

In each digraph group, the first two characters are the codes for the actual character, the middle being the actual character, and the last being the decimal value of the characters. For example, the codes for middle dot is .M, and its decimal number is 183.

To enter a character, press Ctrl-K in insert mode, followed by its codes. For example, to insert middle dot using digraphs, press <C-K>.M. To insert the copyright symbol (©), press <C-K>Co. To insert trademark symbol (), press <C-K>TM.

Define your own digraphs

We can also define our own digraphs. The syntax is:

:digraphs {char1}{char2} {number}

{number} is the decimal value for the Unicode character. For example, to define a digraph entry for the loud crying face emoji (😭, decimal value 128557), use the following command:

:digraphs lc 128557

Then, in insert mode, pressing <C-K>lc will insert this emoji.


  1. See :h i_CTRL-V_digit inside Neovim/Vim for the official doc. ↩︎

  2. Since the crying cat emoji has 5-digit hex, we have to use upper case U followed by 8-digit hex number. The three leading zeros can not be omitted ↩︎


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