I use vim as my $MANPAGER. I will often use :/^[ ]*-F (for example) to quickly jump to a flag and read up on it. However, the equivalent :/^[\s]*-F doesn't return the same results. Why not?

1 Answer 1


The character classes such as \s for spaces or \d for digits do not work inside a [ ] collection in the Vim flavor of regexp. So [\s] is actually matching either a backslash or a lowercase "s".

But in your case, you don't need a [ ] collection anyways, because the \s is the only thing you're matching there.

So this should work just fine:


One alternative is to use a full character class expression (not one using the \-letter shorthand notation, but the [:class:] one), in which case /^[[:blank:]]*-F is what you want here ([:blank:] is the one matching a space or a tab, same as \s.)

  • "do not work inside a [ ] group".... does this pertain to all of the characters at vimregex.com/#metacharacters and no others?
    – alec
    Commented May 10, 2021 at 0:05
  • 1
    @alec It's complicated... Some such as \t will actually work inside [ ]. See :help /[ for more details.
    – filbranden
    Commented May 10, 2021 at 0:06
  • 1
    That's confusing, I've only really ever seen character classes written inside square brackets. Thanks for the quick and informative reply.
    – Harv
    Commented May 10, 2021 at 0:36

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