When writing code, I often have code of the form

variableA operator variableB

and I would like to edit it to be

variableB operator variableA.

Right now, I do this by deleting/pasting variableB to be in front of variableA and then deleting/pasting operator to be in between them. Is there a slicker way to do this in Vim?

  • Count how many keystrokes you need to do what you're doing. In my case, it's diW2WviWpBBhP which is 13. I would argue it's enough for getting by. Otherwise, create a leader mapping. – klaus Apr 15 at 13:56
variableA operator variableB
   ^ cursor here


  • diw delete variableA into register "
  • mm mark current position
  • ww move cursor to variableB
  • vep replace variableB with variableA, also set register " to variableB
  • `m go back to marked position
  • P paste variableB

It's awkward to swap this way. I recommand tommcdo/vim-exchange

With that plugin all you need is

  • That seems like so much work! This is why I started learning the ex commands better – D. Ben Knoble Apr 15 at 13:18
  • Yes, i never do it manually, ex commands also won't do you any good during daily swaping. – dedowsdi Apr 15 at 13:22
  • disagree. With practice it’s a fine technique and applicable broadly. – D. Ben Knoble Apr 15 at 13:29
  • 1
    No, in this case, you can't beat github.com/tommcdo/vim-exchange. how do you compete with cxiwww. ? it even has a "." repeat. – dedowsdi Apr 15 at 13:31
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    Disagree, this is not rare, it's swaping, everyone swaps, it's also not easy without plugin. I highly doubt one can create Mappings or macros that work in a more natural way than github.com/tommcdo/vim-exchange. – dedowsdi Apr 15 at 13:36

Yes, via search and replace:

:s/\v(variableA) (operator) (variableB)/\3 \2 \1
  • \v is for very magic to make the parens easier
  • The parens make capture groups, referenced in the substitution to flip the order

You can add a range at the beginning of :s (e.g., :%s... to operate on the entire file) and flags at the end (e.g., ...\1/g to operate on all matches in each line).

Pattern needs adjusting if situation is more complex. See :h pattern

  • Nice use of capture groups, but it is not practically any faster than writing out variableB operator variableA, because I need to write out (variableA) (operator) (variableB)! I can't even yank and paste into the command line, because I still need to go back and add the parentheses. – The_Anomaly Apr 15 at 13:24
  • @The_Anomaly two suggestion: (1) yank it and open the command line window (q:) instead, so you can add parens faster; and (2) use vim-surround from tpope (on github) to make adding said parens really fast. Combine with repeat.vim for maximum effect. Finally, note that by making the regex smarter (\v(\k+) (operator) (\k+), for example) you do save typing time. – D. Ben Knoble Apr 15 at 13:28
  • Very nice. And wow, q: is blowing my mind, not sure how I did not know about this... – The_Anomaly Apr 15 at 13:40
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    @The_Anomaly, if you didn't know about q: I'm pretty sure you are also gonna like :h c_CTRL-F – klaus Apr 15 at 13:53

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