I want to write a command that replaces all of a line's spaces with figure spaces, and I want the code to not use those literal characters so it is more legible than :s/ / /g

So, naturally, I try various iterations like:

:s/\x20/\u2007/g      " matches a hex char then "20", adds uppercase "2007"
:s/[\x20]/^Vu2007/g                " that's a literal <Ctrl-V>
:s/\%u20/\=printf("%c", 0x2007)/g  " gives me ^G instead
:s/\%u20/\="\<Char-0x2007>"/g      " gives me <e2><80><fe>X<87> instead

None of these work, though all of the patterns do indeed match spaces.

I see lots of tricks around for how to enter Unicode characters in Insert mode, but none about how to do so in a replacement string.

In researching this question, I found How to translate Unicode escape sequences to the Unicode character, which gives me the following functional solution:


Is there really no cleaner way to do this? I assume that's unnecessarily costly.

1 Answer 1


I'm surprised you didn't see an error message telling you that there was no match. Your problem is \x20 which was matching nothing. Your pattern was effectively:


\x matches a hex digit atom. See :h /\x. What you're thinking of are string special characters (:h expr-quote), which aren't expanded in patterns.

This is what you want:

execute ":s/ /\u2007/g"


:s/ /\="\u2007"/g



Just use a literal space as the pattern.

  • That was a typo; /[\x20]/ works. I'll adjust the question. This is still "executing" "\u2007" though, isn't it? Wouldn't that therefore have a (admittedly very small) extra cost beyond a literal figure space?
    – Adam Katz
    Mar 3, 2017 at 23:49
  • 1
    Are you talking about performance cost? Vim's script is literally the same as you typing it in the command line. There's no bytecode cache--it's always "executed". So yes, \="\u2007" evaluates a string and returns it during execution before substitution. It's also the simplest way for you to have an opaque representation of that character.
    – Tommy A
    Mar 4, 2017 at 4:38
  • That's the answer I was looking for. Thanks.
    – Adam Katz
    Mar 6, 2017 at 19:03

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