If I am searching for a word inside a file, if I do not hit ENTER after the search pattern, my vi loses the current match and jumps back to where it was.

I have

set hlsearch
set incsearch 

in .vimrc.

Therefore, the moment I start typing word, vi jumps to the first occurrence and highlights that. However, this tricks me into believing that it really jumped there, so almost by instinct, I hit ESC and do whatever I was supposed to do at that point.

But that cancels my search and puts me back to where I was, which I find slightly annoying.

Can I make vi to jump there right away?

I have not yet thought through if this could have other less agreeable consequences... But I am willing to find out if it's possible.

  • 1
    Just a note that this is "by design": / is essentially an ex-command, which requires Enter to terminate. If you turn off incsearch the behavior is perhaps more intuitive (Enter to move), though of course incsearch is quite handy, too
    – D. Ben Knoble
    Commented Aug 12, 2021 at 13:54
  • Yeah I think I am getting used to incsearch - I just only recently enabled it. Without it, as you are suggesting, the default behavior seems rather transparent and indeed intuitive. Commented Aug 12, 2021 at 15:01

1 Answer 1


One possible solution is to enable the x cpoption, which makes <Esc> execute a command (rather than cancel it) when in command-line mode.

set cpoptions+=x

See :help cpo-x and :help c_Esc for more details.

The traadeoff in this approach is that this makes <Esc> execute or confirm in any of the command-line modes, including : (for Ex command-line, for example :q<Esc> will then quit!), also input() and a few more modes.

In theory, you could add a mapping that only handles <Esc> in command-line for searches, with:

cnoremap <expr> <Esc> getcmdtype() =~ '^[/?]$' ? '<Enter>' : '<C-C>'

Unfortunately, that breaks the use of keys whose key sequence starts with an <Esc>, such as arrow keys, in command-line mode. Vim seems to run into this issue whenever you create a mapping for <Esc>, there doesn't seem to be an easy or reliable solution for this problem.

(Note also that this last mapping needs to map to <C-C> for keeping <Esc> behavior in modes other than search, since <Esc> in mappings behaves as if the x cpoption is set, as mentioned in :help c_Esc.)

  • 1
    It seems to work for now! I will leave the setting for a while and see how this behaves for my other workflows. Thanks! Commented Aug 11, 2021 at 21:52

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