I have a couple of autocmds in my vim config along the lines of this (the actual commands are quite long):

    au BufWritePost *.latex.md  silent! ...
    au BufWritePost *.md  silent! ...

where writing files with .md or .latex.md extensions runs pandoc to convert my markdown files into the corresponding format. The problem I have (which you have probably guessed by looking at the example above) is that globbing for *.md subsumes files with a .latex.md extension. This means that files with that extension produce both HTML and a PDF, which is unnecessary. Is there any way to make the two autocommands mutually exlusive, or do I need to create a command or function that runs the correct command instead?

2 Answers 2


There's more to the autocmd pattern than *. Using other wildcards should give more flexibility in crafting patterns that don't overlap.

The problem is that the pattern matching for autocmd is not standard/vim regex and it's not shell-like globbing. It's a modified version of vim regex. Example: . represents a period not "any character except newline". :h file-pattern gives the details. From there we can try to come up with appropriate translations from standard to modified regex.

At first I thought the translation rules were too restrictive to allow use of some of the more advanced regex atoms (e.g lookahead/lookbehind). But a comment from @user938271 made me rethink that and after some testing we come to:

autocmd BufWritePost *.latex.md ...
autocmd BufWritePost *{.latex}\@<!.md ...

The negative lookbehind should ensure that the two autocmds are mutually exclusive (only one will be triggered for a given filename).

So, all I had to do was replace \(...\) with {...}. Overthinking made this much harder than it should have been.

  • 1
    @BLayer Honestly, your regexp is too dirty (e.g. "foo.md" does not match at all), but that is not me who voted it down.
    – Matt
    Dec 13, 2019 at 16:59
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    @BLayer Alas, It is even worse, as even simple lemon.md will not match here either.
    – Matt
    Dec 13, 2019 at 17:31
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    Not sure it helps but you can use a negative lookbehind inside an autocmd file pattern: It is possible to use |pattern| items, but they may not work as expected, because of the translation done for the above. So for example, you could try: au BufWritePost *\(.latex\)\@<!.md ...
    – user938271
    Dec 14, 2019 at 8:33
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    FWIW, it seems to work on my machine (0x0.st/zUnI.txt). For the file /tmp/foo.latex.md, only the first autocmd is triggered. And for the file /tmp/foo.bar.md, only the second autocmd is triggered. Then again, maybe I misunderstood something. As for the issue about the translation, I don't think \(.latex\)\@<! is affected. The only character which should be translated is the dot, which in a usual regex stands for any character except the newline, while here it stands for a literal dot. But it's true that in general you have to be careful about which characters you use.
    – user938271
    Dec 14, 2019 at 10:01
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    I checked your code and it works on my machine.
    – user938271
    Dec 14, 2019 at 10:15

You can examine a match and then decide what to do. Whether to use multiple autocommands or "bar-newline-backslash" is a matter of style.

augroup mywritepost | au!
    autocmd BufWritePost *.md if expand("<afile>") =~? '\.latex\.md$'
    autocmd BufWritePost *.md     call s:makepdf()
    autocmd BufWritePost *.md else
    autocmd BufWritePost *.md     call s:makehtml()
    autocmd BufWritePost *.md endif
augroup end

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