I write ruby test files in vim, and regularly run tests from the file I'm editing by running

:!rspec %:N

or something similar (to execute the test at line N). The problem is that when the first digit of N is an 8, like:

:!rspec %:89

I get an error:

cannot load such file -- /.../foo_spec.rb9

So it looks like the sequence %:8 means something inside of a colon command. Additionally, if I escape the colon: rspec %\:89 works fine.

But why is this happening?

1 Answer 1


As you already know % in the vim command line is resolved to the path name of the file in the current buffer. But % can be modified by adding a modifier. A modifier starts with a : and :8 is a valid modifier.

See :help filename-modifiers for the full list of modifiers. For :8 it says:

  :8  Converts the path to 8.3 short format (currently only on
      MS-Windows).  Will act on as much of a path that is an
      existing path.

On Linux a %:8 is just like %, so %:89 results in %9.

  • Since OP might not know about % in general it might help to start with something like "unescaped % resolves to the path of the file in the current buffer" and then ":8 is a modifier of % that...".
    – B Layer
    Feb 8, 2019 at 11:53
  • Aha! Thanks for pointing me in the right direction. I can confirm I do know about % :-) Feb 8, 2019 at 11:56
  • Okay, cool. Still might be good to give a little context IMHO by mentioning % alone...only mention is currently "the path".
    – B Layer
    Feb 8, 2019 at 12:00
  • 1
    @BLayer I see, we try to provide answers that are more than a link and a short quote.
    – Ralf
    Feb 8, 2019 at 12:36
  • 1
    @Ralf Yeah! I try to keep in mind "hypothetical, future, non-OP readers" for which context is king when writing an answer. :) Cheers.
    – B Layer
    Feb 8, 2019 at 12:42

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