I've discovered I can execute vim macros from the command line using the following command:

vim myfile -c "argdo norm @aZZ"

This command executed from the command line will execute a macro that I have stored inside register a and close the file. It works fine, however, I'd like to be able to execute a macro that I have as a string and not a macro that is already inside a register.

Let's say I see my macro using :reg on vim, and inside the register "a I see Goa^Ma^Ma^C^C. If I manually copy Goa^Ma^Ma^C^C to a different register with the command :let @l="Goa^Ma^Ma^C^C", this macro will not work on the register "l as it works on register "a. Is there any way of copying the value of a macro to my clipboard and paste it on another register without breaking it? Just so I can execute macros that I've extracted from my registers on the command line?

  • Hi, welcome! Your let command should work just fine. However, you need to input ^M and alike as single characters, with <c-v><c-m> for example.
    – Biggybi
    Commented Mar 4, 2021 at 8:38
  • If the value is stored in the clipboard, you should be able to directly access it using vim <args> -c ':norm @+' <filenames> Commented Mar 4, 2021 at 12:26

2 Answers 2


^X is display representation of byte value of #24 (as "X" is the 24th letter in alphabet). Hence instead of :let @l="Goa^Ma^Ma^C^C" you should write:

let @l = "Goa\ra\ra\3\3"

Escape rules are borrowed from C. Full description is under :h expr-quote.

  • Complicated to get right—why not ctrl-v insert the characters? Much easier
    – D. Ben Knoble
    Commented Mar 4, 2021 at 13:30
  • @D.BenKnoble I don't think C-style escapes are too complicated.
    – Matt
    Commented Mar 4, 2021 at 13:45
  • @Matt Thanks... But my issue is more about the situations that I create a very huge macro and I want to execute this macro on a bash script outside vim. The huge problem that I see is that even though I can see the macro that I've created on :reg, I still need a lot of rework to adapt this macro to become an executable macro string. Is that how it should be? If I create huge macros and I want to execute them as strings, do I need to dedicate the time for translating what I see on :reg to a string using the right characters? Or is there a more efficient way of doing it?
    – raylight
    Commented Mar 5, 2021 at 18:08
  • @raylight See :h :source! But a long sequence of normal-mode commands will be hard to read.
    – Matt
    Commented Mar 5, 2021 at 18:29

If you’re copying from one register to another, do that:

:let @l = @a

Or if you want to edit,

:put a

The last sequence is to put the macro into register l but avoid adding a trailing newline.

Make sure to use literal control characters as necessary (<C-v> is useful there).

  • @Rich I think 0"lD works?
    – D. Ben Knoble
    Commented Mar 4, 2021 at 17:08
  • I think I didn't explain it properly in my question, sorry. But in my specific case of use, this method won't work because I want to generate the string of the macro just so I'm able to execute it outside the file. This way, I could use vim macros even inside a process that is automatically receiving files on a server.
    – raylight
    Commented Mar 5, 2021 at 18:10

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