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I'm trying to create a buffer for a specific purpose, and for that, I need to add newlines to it to get it to be the same height as my current window. My first idea, using call append("^", repeat("\r", winheight(win_getid()))) didn't work (all it did was append ^M several times over to a single line), and I can't seem to find a solution anywhere else.

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append() (or appendbufline()) do not allow \r or \n to insert new lines. You should use List instead. For instance,

call appendbufline(l:bufnr, '$', repeat([''], winheight(winnr())))
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First off, are you sure you need to add actual content to your buffer? If the goal is just to get it the same height as a single, current window, there's a much simpler method in normal mode:

<C-W>=

Or in Vimscript:

:wincmd =

The problem with your append command is that you're passing a string, which explicitly tells it add the content to a single line. To add multiple lines, you should instead pass a list:

call append("^", repeat([''], winheight(win_getid())))

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