I'm trying to write a simple mapping that will pre-populate the vim ex command line but leave the user there to execute the command on their own.

The use-case is for the user to type <leader>/foo which would then open the command line with :e **/foo and the user could either further refine, press ctrl-d to see possible matches, etc

  • For those who come to this question searching for how to preserve a trailing whitespace in the mapping, the answer is here.
    – Enlico
    Commented Aug 21, 2020 at 12:28

2 Answers 2


That kind of mapping is very, very common:

nnoremap <leader>/ :edit **/*


Might I suggest the following slightly smarter alternative?

set path=.,**
nnoremap <leader>/ :find *

The 'path' option tells Vim to look for files matching the argument given to :find in the directory of the file associated with the current buffer and any subdirectory of the working directory.


:help :find
:help 'path'
  • Thanks, that worked. Why would :find be superior to :edit in this case? Is it because you can pre-filter out matches with "path" while :edit will just search for everything? Commented May 31, 2015 at 14:26
  • 1
    Yes. With :edit **/foo, your are somewhat restricted to files located below the working directory. With :find, you are restricted to the directories specified in 'path', which may or may not be under the working directory.
    – romainl
    Commented May 31, 2015 at 14:30
  • A quick question about this, why is a * necessary at the end of the find command? I tried using that, and when I hit tab after typing a few characters in, it shows the results, then removes the star. Commented May 31, 2015 at 16:39
  • 1
    @EvergreenTree, :find bar only finds files whose name starts with bar but :find *bar also finds files containing bar anywhere in their name. Note that this rule also applies to :edit and all related commands.
    – romainl
    Commented May 31, 2015 at 16:55
  • Ah, that makes sense. Commented May 31, 2015 at 21:05

You may also want to check :h :map-<expr>. While admittedly in this case it would be overkill, it enables mappings of the following type:

function! PopulateFooMap(c)
  let dict = { "r":"bar", "z":"baz" }
  return ":e **/" . get(dict, a:c, a:c)

" very powerful
nnoremap <expr> <leader>/ PopulateFooMap(nr2char(getchar()))

" but this would still take precedence
nnoremap <leader>/f :e **/foo

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