I am writing a VBA routine so I can use normal-mode commands in Microsoft Word. (Yes, I am! Edit And here you go!) I am only going to support the d, c, and y operators initially, and only char/word/sentence/paragraph motions. No visual mode, no ]] &c., no "*.

Is there an easy way to parse the command the user has entered? My thought is that it probably can be done with a regex, since the count/operator/count/motion sequence is fairly restrictive. Something like (very magic):


Does anyone already have a regex or parser that will do this? I am wondering if I have missed any corner cases or subtleties in the above. (Edit For example, I had included 0 as a valid trailing character, which interacted badly with the [0-9]* before it.) Thanks!

  • 2
    These seem like normal mode commands, not ex commands; please clarify. Also since normal sequences form something of a finite state machine, it's plausible there may be such a regex, but I don't see how that helps you as opposed to hand-writing it. FYI glts.github.io/2013/04/28/vim-normal-mode-grammar.html
    – Mass
    Commented Apr 6, 2018 at 18:10
  • @Mass Thanks for the correction. Yes, normal mode, not ex mode. Thanks for the link!
    – cxw
    Commented Apr 6, 2018 at 18:15

1 Answer 1


I have written my Word add-in using VBScript regex v5.5 to parse the command. Feedback and contributions welcome! As of 2019-02-15, the add-in works in Word 2007–2016. Edit As of 2020-02-13, 64-bit Word is also supported.

I am largely following the model in the grammar @Mass kindly linked to. As of v0.2.9, my regex is:


with zero-based submatch numbers:

1   The initial count

3   Intransitive verb (e.g., 0, w, f<char>)
4   Motion for an intransitive verb
5   The <char> of an f, F, t, or T

7   Transitive verb (e.g., operators d, c, y)
8   The count after the operator
9   The motion or text object ("target")
10  vim-ninja-feet* [ or ]
11  a or i if you are selecting a text object
12   For a and i motions, which type of object is being selected (w, W, s, p)
13  For f, F, t and T motions, which character is being used

* vim-ninja-feet

Registers are still not supported.

The regex is complicated enough that I wrote a Perl script to generate the regex from a text description of it. That description is below. Run ./re2vba.pl vim-regex.txt to generate the regex and submatch-number assignments on stdout.

In the description, (?<name>...) represents a named submatch, and (?<=piece-name) pulls in a named piece of the regex. Comments (#... or (?#...)) and trailing whitespace (after stripping comments) are ignored.

# Main pattern
main        ^(  (?# Note: registers not yet implemented)

# Motions that don't take arguments (although they may take counts).
# A motion of "0" is special-cased in the parsing code to keep the regex
# clean.  This regex, after backtracking, matches "10" as a count of "1"
# followed by a "0" motion.  We special-case rather than handling that here.
noarg-motion    [HMLG
                    (?# 28/29 are parens, move sentence )
                    (?# 7b/7d are braces, move paragraph )
                g?[eE0\^\$]         (?# gw, gb, etc. are not motions.)
                (?#  ^ Note: 0 is special-cased in the parsing code.)

# Intransitive, including motions.  These can take a count, namely ?<count1>.
intrans     (?<iverb>
                (?<imotion>             (?# motions)

                (gW)?g?[\*#]|           (?# searches)

                g?[pP]                  (?# pastes)
                # IVERB: what to do
                        # ITEXT: character to jump to

# Text-object selection ([ai][something])
textobj     (?<ninja>[\[\]])?               (?# Ninja-feet marker)
                                    # https://github.com/tommcdo/vim-ninja-feet
            (?<tobj_range>[ai])             (?# Introducer)
            (?<objtype>[wWsp])              (?# Type of text object)

# Transitive: verb, count, object, object type, text
trans       (?<tverb>[cdyv])                (?# TVERB: what to do)
            (?<count2>[1-9][0-9]*)?         (?# Count after the operator)
            (?<target>                      (?# What to work on)
                (?<=textobj)|               (?# Text objects)
                [fFtT](?<ttext>.)|          (?# Motions with an argument)

Note 1: Just like in Vim, v selects the text moved over. However, Word is essentially always in a combination of normal and visual modes, so v doesn't leave you in any special mode.

Note 2: I don't need the c intransitive verb for one-offs, since you are back in Word (i.e., insert mode) after a d. However, I am working on a loop version that will leave you in Normal mode after a d but not after a c(#3).

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