I am having a very long line file, I have to break the line into number of small lines.


< this>is a testing< /this>< next>testing< /next>< tested>successfully< /tested>

I have to break it into as of below

< this>is a testing< / this> 

< next>testing< / next> 

< tested>successfully< /tested>

for this I am trying to search for < and add new line, but this results in:

< this>is a testing

< /this>

< next>testing

< /next>

< tested>successfully

< /tested>

What would be the correct command to fix this?

  • 1
    What you are looking for is not a simple search and replace it is a way to format some html or xml which is much more complex and has much more edge cases than you might think. To do this I would recommend using a specialized tool (there are plenty like this or this) it will be much easier and more efficient than crafting your own regex. And you can even use equalprg to use these tools directly within vim (see :h 'equalprg')
    – statox
    Aug 14, 2018 at 8:15
  • Not exactly what you are looking for, but I prefer this: %s#<\(/\w\+>\|\w\+/>\)\zs#\r#g, which will add a linebreak after each closing tag. Aug 15, 2018 at 5:52
  • Check this out vim.wikia.com/wiki/Cleanup_your_HTML
    – Alex Kroll
    Sep 13, 2018 at 15:35

2 Answers 2


If for some reason you can't check those tools that statox recommended, you can use something like this:

%s;\(< */[^>]\+>\);\1^M;g

It will look at every line for every closing tag (\(< */[^>]\+>\)) and replace it by itself and then a new line.

The first part (to identify the closing tag) will search for

  • a < character
  • followed by any number of spaces ( *),
  • then a slash (/)
  • and any (positive) number of any character different from a closing tag sign ([^>]\+)
  • and finally a close tag sign (>).

To insert a new line (^M above) you should press Ctrl-V (or Ctrl-Q if you are on on Windows) and then press the Enter key.

  • 1
    This can be simplified to :%s;< */[^>]\+>;&\r;g – do you have very magic set as default? With the default magic setting, (, ) and + need to be escaped, see :h magic.
    – dessert
    Dec 13, 2018 at 20:40

What you need to find all >< patterns and to insert two new lines.

One of the simplest is to do



  • But what if there’s an empty one like < that>< / that>?
    – dessert
    Dec 13, 2018 at 20:43
  • 1
    Ha, I only considered the case in the OP.
    – doraemon
    Dec 14, 2018 at 1:19

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