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From the help file for showcmd:

Show (partial) command in the last line of the screen

Is it possible to have the commands displayed on the first line instead? I can't find anything in the help or on the web on this subject.

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Since Vim 9.0.1061 (Dec 2022) you can use showcmdloc=tabline to display the showcmd in the tabline (assuming that is what's intended with "first line"). You can also use showcmd=statusline, or use %S in the 'statusline' or 'tabline' settings.

Neovim seems to have ported this patch, but it's not in any release at the time of writing. Presumably it will be in the upcoming 0.9 release.

For older versions you're out of luck, as it's all hard-coded.

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