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I know that * selects the word under the cursor, but what if I want to actually select a WORD ?

Just to be clear, I would then like to use the selection for a replace, something like :%s//foo/g

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I would then like to use the selection for a replace, something like :%s//foo/g

:%s/^R^A/foo/g

See :h c_CTRL-R_CTRL-A

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  • I always forget about these command line mapping but that is indeed the best way to go – statox Jun 18 '20 at 9:57
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You are looking for the help topic :h <cWORD>. When you combine it with :h expand() it allows you to get the WORD under your cursor. You can try this command to understand how it works:

:echo expand('<cWORD>')

Now if you want to have for example <leader>* to work as * but with WORDs you could use the following mapping which will use expand('<cWORD>') as the current search pattern:

nnoremap <leader>* :execute '/' . expand('<cWORD>')<CR>

If you want to use that directly in a substitution you could do something like this:

execute 's/' . expand('<cWORD>') . '/foo/g'

See :h execute() if you are not familiar with this way of building commands.

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Another approach is to map your * key in visual mode to make it search for the selection:

" search visual selection
vnoremap * y/\V<C-R>=escape(@",'/\')<CR><CR>

Then, you can do viW* to effectively search the WORD under the cursor.


Also, you could use a map to quickly start replacing the current selection:

nnoremap gr :s/<c-r>///g<left><left>

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