In text editors like sublime text, atom and notepad++, when you select a word, all matches are highlighted automatically as shown in the following screenshot of my atom editor:

Automatically highlight the word permutation when selected

I use v and select text in vim but how can I obtain all highlight functionality?


TL;DR: Combine * and # with hlsearch

You could highlight by using match and <cword> via an autocommand on an event like CursorHold. But I’m going to show an alternative method.

  • * searches forward for the word under the cursor
  • # searches backward for the word under the cursor

Both have variants (g*, g#) that don’t restrict the searches to word-boundaries.

Use n and N to navigate.

By setting hlsearch, these searches will also highlight matches.

Why do this?

  1. It uses a vim search instead of arbitrary highlights, so you can actually navigate between matches
  2. It uses existing vim machinery and needs little-to-no setup
  3. The commands are good to learn anyway (and then you start to like gd, among others)


This is does not work for “partial words”: if you visually-select part of a word and hit *, you won’t get the result you want.

One workaround is one of the many visual star plugins.

Another is to simply yank y and then search /<C-r>"<CR> (vim notation: type slash / to search, then Control-R quote to paste the selected text, then hit enter).

  • Why vim does has to be so hard? I hope all these learning commands and losing some features from other editors will be worth it. – as2d3 May 23 at 21:12
  • 1
    @AbhishekAgrawal I dont see it as losing a feature—fwiw, i dont feel like im missing anything. As far as worth it, any adjustment to workflow comes with cost. Switching to vim years ago paid off for me. – D. Ben Knoble May 23 at 21:23

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