I wanted to replace Tab character with the following, depending on what is on either side of the tab. This is for quickly converting pasted in text (to vim 7.4) from a spreadsheet (xls/xlsx) that has update requests. Some fields are obviously text. Others could be text or numeric.

This function (if/when it works) allows quick conversion of the spreadsheet spec into part of a SQL command. So, the user must look at the metadata and determine if the field is character or numeric. There are 4 case for each Tab and what is on either side of it: CC (char, char), CN (char, num), NC (num, char), and NN (num, num). I had no problem mapping each of these, but getting it into a function to perform these operations runs into trouble. I get a "trailing characters" error. Here is my script (including control characters so you can see):

:map <F1> :%s/^I/,/^M$
:map <F2> :%s/^I/,'/^M$
:map <F3> :%s/^I/',/^M$
:map <F4> :%s/^I/','/^M$
:map nn :%s/^I/,/^M$
:map nc :%s/^I/,'/^M$
:map cn :%s/^I/',/^M$
:map cc :%s/^I/','/^M$
:map qb :%s/^/'/^M$
:map qe :%s/$/'/^M$
:map sp :%s/''/' '/^M$
:map ac :%s/^I/','/g^M:%s/^/'/g^M:%s/$/'/g^M$
:map pr :%s/^.*$/(&),/g^MG$x^[$
:function! QuoteSQL(...)$
:   let parsed = split(a:000[0], '\zs')$
:   let i = 1$
:   while i < len(a:000[0])$
:      if parsed[i-1] == 'C' && parsed[i] == 'C'$
:normal %s/^I/','/^M$
:      elseif parsed[i-1] == 'C' && parsed[i] == 'N'$
:normal %s/^I/',/^M$
:      elseif parsed[i-1] == 'N' && parsed[i] == 'C'$
:normal %s/^I/,'/^M$
:      else$
:normal %s/^I/,/^M$
:      endif$
:      let i=i+1$
:   endwhile$

The call looks like this: :call QuoteSQL("NNCCCCNCCNN") - Each N or C refers to the fields in order. Numeric fields get no quotes and character fields get single quotes. Like I said I had no problem mapping such commands a cc, cn, nc, and nn. Inside the function I could in fact echo things successfully like echo "CC" etc. When I tried to put the operation I want based on each condition it fails. If the 1st 2 in the comparison are C and C, then the Tab is replaced by ,, etc. I will add steps to put needed quotes at the beginning and end of the lines as well. Then the parenthesis and commas. Imagine if you will that a char field will contain a 'C' and a numeric field will contain and 'N' (not a number I know - this is just for example to show output). Output looks like this:


How can I get my function to take the CNNNCNNCNCNCNNC type argument and apply it to the file I have opened in vim? Thanks.

  • Looks like the layout is all messed up. I had my source file on seperate lines, but it didn't come out that way in this post.
    – Jeff
    Feb 6, 2017 at 16:11
  • Please, next time, use the {} button to format your code. Feb 6, 2017 at 16:28
  • Since my attempt of pasting code in did not work, I will pose the question another simple way. I have an argument passed to my function. I had an if, elseif, elseif, else clause on my function I got my function to work just fine as long as the actions based on the if clause was echo "whatever", but when I tried to put in something like %s/<TAB>/','/ it fails with "trailing characters" error. I hope this clarifies what I am having trouble achieving.
    – Jeff
    Feb 7, 2017 at 14:09
  • {:function! QuoteSQL(...)} {: let parsed = split(a:000[0], '\zs')} {: let i = 1} {: while i < len(a:000[0])} {: if parsed[i-1] == 'C' && parsed[i] == 'C'} {:normal %s/^I/','/^M} {: elseif parsed[i-1] == 'C' && parsed[i] == 'N'} {:normal %s/^I/',/^M} {: elseif parsed[i-1] == 'N' && parsed[i] == 'C'} {:normal %s/^I/,'/^M} {: else} {:normal %s/^I/,/^M} {: endif} {: let i=i+1} {: endwhile} {:endfunction}
    – Jeff
    Feb 7, 2017 at 14:20
  • My apologies. This is frustrating. Cannot find an example of how to apply the {}
    – Jeff
    Feb 7, 2017 at 14:20

1 Answer 1


You don't need :normal here.

Instead of using special characters use their stringified form -> CTRL-I becomes <tab>, and so on.

EDIT: My mistake, if you want to search for tab, search for \t. The transformations will be:

function! QuoteSQL(...) abort
:   let parsed = a:1
:   let i = 1
:   let len = strlen(a:1)
:   while i < len
:      if parsed[i-1 : i] == 'CC'
:        %s/\t/','/
:      elseif parsed[i-1 : i] == 'CN'
:        %s/\t/',/
:      elseif parsed[i-1 : i ] == 'NC'
:        %s/\t/,'/
:      else
:        %s/\t/,/
:      endif
:      let i += 1
:   endwhile

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