I want to implement something similar to Org mode M-RET into neovim. In Org mode it creates new list item or heading depending on what line the point is on.

I'm thinking of a mapping in neovim that copies everything from the beginning of the current line until the first alphanumeric character of the line and puts it on a new line. For example, with cursor at the end, it would transform this:

* list item
    * inner list item

into this:

* list item
    * inner list item

I think it could be done with :s but i couldn't make it work (:s/(^[^\w]*)(.*)/\1\2\n\1) and it would replace the whole line, which is unnecessary.

Ideally it should work in insert mode and shouldn't rewrite any registers.

2 Answers 2


You could start with this:

function! NewBullet()
    let l = getline('.')
    let l = substitute(l, '\w.*$','', '')
    return "\n" . l

inoremap <expr> <F1> NewBullet()

Map-expression calls the function and inserts the returned text. Here a newline and the prefix of the line.

See :help :map-expression.

  • Perfect, except the new line has double indentation because of autoindent. I added another substitute command to remove all whitespace at the begining of the line.
    – matj1
    Dec 21, 2018 at 15:29

:substitute Command

The problem with the command you tried is that you used \n where you needed to use \r. (See :help s/\r.)

I don't really share your aversion to substituting the entire line, but we'll avoid that too:


Insert Mode Mapping

To use this from insert mode, you can include it in an insert mode mapping:

:inoremap <F1> <Esc>:s/\v^(\W*).*\zs/\r\1<CR>A

How It Works

  • \v – using "very magic"
  • ^ – the start of the line
  • (\W*) – as many non-alphanumeric characters* as possible, grouped into a capture group.
  • .* – as many characters as possible (i.e. the rest of the line)
  • \zs – set the start of the match (and thus the start of the replacement) to here

The replacement:

  • \r – A newline
  • \1 – The captured group.

* \W is equivalent to [0-9A-Za-z_] which is close enough to "non-alphanumeric" for your purposes.

Avoid :substitute Entirely

It's also possible just to use regular editing commands to perform this task:

:inoremap <F1> <Esc>0y/\w<CR>o<Esc>pA

To see how this works, just try typing out the commands in the mapping's rhs manually!

  • I don't have aversion to substituting the entire line, i just think it could be done better, but it's better than overwriting registers.
    – matj1
    Dec 21, 2018 at 13:45
  • @matj1 Neither solution in my answer substitutes the entire line.
    – Rich
    Dec 21, 2018 at 14:14
  • If you don’t want the code to overwrite any registers, including the yank, unnamed, and search pattern registers, you’ll need a function that saves them before performing the edit and restores them afterwards.
    – Rich
    Dec 21, 2018 at 14:44

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