I'm writing a function that uses Vim's Python API. The function runs while I'm in insert mode and I want this function to set my mode to normal mode.

I tried a few things, like for example, this

import vim
vim.eval(r'execute normal! \<esc>')

But unfortunately this doesn't work. I just get the error VIM:E121: Undefined variable: execute. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Also, generally speaking, I'd really like to know more about the vim module. It doesn't have a __file__ attribute, assuming that's because it's compiled. Is there source code anywhere I can view? Or generally where the file lives so that I can try importing it and running help(vim) without having to re-run my functions in a Vim environment. If you have any information on that, in particular, it'd help a lot. Thanks!

1 Answer 1


Your question is more of a vim issue than a python one. vim.eval is basically the same as vim's eval( which evaluates an expression and does not run a command like execute. Additionally, your syntax for execute is wrong since the command takes a string: execute "normal! \<esc>" would be more correct. You could instead use the expression form execute():

vim.eval(r'execute("normal! \<esc>")')

However, since you ultimately want to use a command I would recommend just using vim.command(cmd) instead. vim already has a command for leaving insert mode, stopinsert.


The documentation for the methods in the built-in vim module can be found using :help python which brings up doc/if_pyth.txt.

  • I see a have a lot to learn. Thanks for your help. For some reason neither command works in the context that I need it in (the UltiSnips plugin) but I did a quick test using vimscript which calls Python and it works. Jan 27, 2018 at 16:58

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