I just discovered you can't search and replace within a block selection without adding the ugly and unintuitive
\%V to the search term. The default behaviour seems to be to ignore the fact that you've done a columnular highlight and operate on whatever lines the highlight touches.
Would it not have made more sense to have
'<,'> default to "operate on the highlighted text" - whether columnular or not - , and to allow the user to specify some hack to operate on the whole lines instead of the highlighted block if that is what is desired?
Is the current behaviour there for historical reasons, or is there a rational reason for it? I'm assuming there's no way of getting the behaviour I'm after without a plugin?