In terminal, the command of the line of the input prompt can be cleared with <C-U>, and is recoverable with <C-Y>.

In vim, the colon command can be cleared with <C-U>, but it is not recoverable with <C-Y>. Is it possible to recover those erased commands?

  • 1
    I don't think it's possible natively (at least I didn't find anything relevant in the doc). Saving what you typed before using <c-u> can be done with :h CmdlineChanged and :h getcmdline() but modifying the command line with a mapping is the non trivial part.
    – statox
    Apr 26, 2021 at 19:31

3 Answers 3


Somewhat workaround if you have recent vim with <cmd> support:

cnoremap <C-u> <cmd>let g:CCtrlU = strpart(getcmdline(),0,getcmdpos()-1)<CR><C-u>
cnoremap <C-y> <C-r>=get(g:, "CCtrlU", "")<CR><cmd>let g:CCtrlU = ''<CR>

With <cmd> it is possible to run arbitrary vimscript without changing modes, so here with

  • <C-u> part of the cmdline is saved from beginning to the cursor pos, then original <C-u> deletes what it should.
  • <C-y> uses expression register = to output saved cmdline (g:CCtrlU is in safe form, checking existence with default value "") and then cleans up variable that holds saved cmdline.

PS, alternatively if you don't mind <C-u> to cut text into unnamed register, it could be simplified to:

cnoremap <C-u> <cmd>let @" = strpart(getcmdline(),0,getcmdpos()-1)<CR><C-u>
cnoremap <C-y> <C-r>"

PPS, and if you don't have <cmd> in your vim you could try this with <expr> and additional func:

func! CCtrlU() abort
    let @" = strpart(getcmdline(),0,getcmdpos()-1)
    return "\<C-u>"
cnoremap <expr> <C-u> CCtrlU()
cnoremap <C-y> <C-r>"

I have an idea which is probably not ideal but could be in the right direction. The idea is to make use of the event :h CmdlineChanged which is triggered each time a character is changed in the command line.

On this event we get the content of the command line with :h getcmdline() and we use :h :execute to remap <C-y> to this string we got.

augroup CmdSave
    autocmd CmdlineChanged * execute "cnoremap <C-y> " . getcmdline()
augroup END

As the autocommand is triggered also by <C-u> you can then press <C-y> to get the content back. The drawback is that if you press <C-y> at any moment other than right after <C-u> that will mess up your command line. Also it's very probable that some special characters will break the mapping (e.g. this substitution s/./^v/g with <CR> entered with Ctrl+v will end up in two commands)

EDIT Yeah so there are some side effects. I won't investigate the reason but my autocommand breaks the :Git commit feature of vim-figutive, so I also probably breaks other things. Once could try to wrap everything in a try...catch block but at this point it become really too hacky.


First, <c-u> doesn't actually clear the entire cmdline, only the part before the cursor. There is a note in :help c_CTRL-U about this. I'll assume from the question you want to clear the entire cmdline.

On the cmdline, another way to clear the entry is <c-c>. Unlike <c-u> this adds the current text to the history. I suggest the following map:

cnoremap <c-u> <c-c>:

Then, to recover the line after clearing simply press up.

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