When I use the args command it opens the files:

:args `find . -name \*.html`

I would like to do an operation on the arglist without opening the files at all in a buffer, or either opening them one at a time, doing the operation and then closing them. For example:

:args `find . -name \*.html`
:argdo %s/replace/with this/g

to go through the files and do the replacement one at a time. I do not want to open the files in buffers. Also, due to memory constraints, I do not want to have all the files open at one time in any situation.

How can I accomplish this?

  • Use a different tool?
    – D. Ben Knoble
    Commented Jan 14, 2018 at 11:54

1 Answer 1


I would imagine, as D. Ben Knoble suggests, that if you don't anticipate a lot of interaction with the files, a different tool would be the way to go. find . -name \*.html -exec sed -i.bak 's/replace/withthis/g' {} + (or perl -i.bak -pe if your pattern is more complex than sed can accommodate).

If you are determined to do this in vim, I would probably use something like xargs -n to restrict the number of files loaded at once, e.g. find . -name \*.html | xargs -n4 vim +'argdo s/replace/withthis/g' will load only 4 at a time (it may warn you about STDIN not being a terminal but it still works for me.

Warning, this may become very messy if you decide to stop early: i.e. if you decide to stop at the second of 20 batches, you may have to :qall or ^C a whole 19 times. Telling xargs to stop in the middle does not appear to be a simple matter. (If somebody knows differently I'll update the answer.)

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