I'm trying to automate cleaning up old vim undo files that are for files that have since been deleted.

So far I've created a new vim script at ~/.vim/autoload/cleanupUndos.vim:

function cleanupUndos#clean()
    let undofiles = systemlist('ls /Users/me/.vim/undodir/')

    for undofile in undofiles
        let filepath = substitute(undofile, "%", "/", "g")
        if empty(glob(filepath))
            echo "File doesn't exist, deleting undofile for " filepath
            let deleteresult = delete(undofile)
            echo deleteresult == 0 ? 'SUCCEEDED' : 'FAILED'

And in my ~/.vimrc I've set the undofile and undodir and added the autocmd for running the cleanup:

set undofile
set undodir=/Users/me/.vim/undodir
autocmd VimEnter * :call cleanupUndos#clean()

The problem is that when I open vim, it immediately prints FAILED and none of the files ever get deleted. I can run the delete(filename) command in a vim session and it works, but it doesn't seem to work when run from the script. I've tried different ways of deleting files with no success.

How can I delete files from within a vimscript?

(I'm running Vim version 7.4.8056 on MacOS Sierra 10.12.6.)

  • Can you try using full(absolute) path of ls binary , you can find it with which command
    – Raja G
    Apr 24, 2018 at 3:15
  • @Ten-Coin Thanks for the suggestion, but the ls command is working fine. I can see the full file paths being printed in the echo line. It's finding the right files, it just isn't deleting them.
    – Logan
    Apr 24, 2018 at 16:12
  • Just checking, are you sure about permissions?
    – Raja G
    Apr 25, 2018 at 6:49
  • @Ten-Coin what permissions exactly? I have rw permissions on cleanupUndos.vim, rw on all the undofiles, and rwx on the undodir.
    – Logan
    Apr 25, 2018 at 16:08

2 Answers 2


You will need to escape file name since it contains "/". Try using


Check :help fnameescape for more information.

Hope this helps.

  • 1
    Thanks for the answer Ankit, but even after adding fnameescape, it is still failing to delete.
    – Logan
    Apr 26, 2018 at 16:56
  • @Logan could you show the output of the echo command that you mentioned in your earlier comment?
    – Ankit Jain
    Apr 26, 2018 at 17:30
  • File doesn't exist, deleting undofile for /Users/me/tmp/tmp.txt Then I press Enter and it replaces that text with FAILED
    – Logan
    Apr 26, 2018 at 21:58

I recommend tpope's vim-eunuch for executing all these kinds of UNIX shell commands, which includes Delete, Move, Rename, Chmod, to just name a few of them. To install it, visit this page

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.