In Insert mode, I want a mapping which will return to Normal mode, then call a plugin function.

I've tried this:

inoremap <a-1> <ESC><Plug>AirlineSelectTab1

It exits Insert mode, but doesn't then call the plugin.

On the other hand, this works fine:

inoremap <c-l> <ESC><c-w>l

Why can I do one but not the other?

1 Answer 1


This happens because the <Plug> command is itself a mapping defined by a plug-in, so you need recursive mappings in this case for it to work.

imap <a-1> <ESC><Plug>AirlineSelectTab1

The usual recommendation is to always use the nore (non-recursive) version of map commands, to prevent interference from mappings created by the user or by other plug-ins, but unfortunately that's not really possible with commands that use <Plug> mappings.

An alternative, to minimize the number of keystrokes where you're considering recursive mappings (and can maybe help with <Plug> commands that are a whole prefix for another <Plug> command, surely a bad practice but you might find them) is to use :normal (not :normal!, which doesn't consider mappings) from your mapping expansion. That also requires using :execute and marking the mapping as <silent> so it doesn't prominently display the Ex command line during execution.

inoremap <silent> <a-1> <ESC>:execute "normal \<Plug>AirlineSelectTab1"<CR>

That's probably not worth it for a simple case like this one, but might be relevant for more complex mappings that involve many keystrokes other than the call to the <Plug> command itself.

  • The last inoremap doesn't seem to catch the <Plug> mapping for me, but inoremap <c-l> <ESC>:normal <c-w>l does. (after setting nmap <c-w>l <Plug>AirlineSelectTab1)
    – perelo
    Commented Nov 22, 2019 at 14:58
  • First solution works like a dream. The second with :normal didn't work for me.
    – LondonRob
    Commented Nov 22, 2019 at 15:04
  • @perelo Fixed now, using :execute, thanks for catching the issue!
    – filbranden
    Commented Nov 22, 2019 at 15:32
  • 1
    Thanks, I learned something! Worthy to note that double quotes " are required instead of single ' so that \<Plug>... gets interpreted as the mapping :h expr-quote :h expr-'. Anyway, first solution may violate the "only use nore mappings" adage but it is the way to go with <Plug> stuffs.
    – perelo
    Commented Nov 22, 2019 at 17:26

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