Is there a way to use a read filter that calls an interactive command?

My use case is a grep command that returns a long list of tags that I might want to include in a blog post; I was hoping to be able to filter it with fzf, something like:

:r ! grep foo bar.txt | fzf -m

Unfortunately this doesn't show the interactive fzf prompt, seems to freeze, and when killed with Ctrl-c reads a bunch of gibberish into the buffer.

Trying a more simple example, this reads foo into the buffer:

:r ! { myvar=foo; echo "${myvar}"; }

This doesn't work:

:r ! { read myvar; echo "${myvar}"; }

I thought perhaps it was an issue with stdin so I also tried (without success):

:r ! { read -u 3 myvar 3<&0; echo "${myvar}"; }

Am I going about this wrong?

  • Well, for one thing the output of the commands following :r ! are written to a temporary file (whose contents are inserted into the buffer when execution completes). Using an interactive command when you can't see any output isn't very useful. :)
    – B Layer
    Commented Nov 4, 2021 at 16:24
  • (cont.) Even if you could interact with something like fzf anything and everything it writes to stdout or stderr (e.g. a copy of its listing for each time the list changes/refreshes) is going to be captured and inserted into the buffer.
    – B Layer
    Commented Nov 4, 2021 at 16:48
  • @BLayer thanks for your input! Yes, I saw the notes about the tempfile in :help filter. I wonder if there's a way to redirect the fzf output into the same temporary file.
    – n8henrie
    Commented Nov 4, 2021 at 17:35
  • @BLayer Got it, see below.
    – n8henrie
    Commented Nov 4, 2021 at 17:37
  • Cool. That's why I wrote a comment and not an answer...I couldn't rule out a fix/workaround that would meet your needs. :)
    – B Layer
    Commented Nov 4, 2021 at 17:47

2 Answers 2


On MacOS and Linux, this seems to work in vim (but not neovim):

:set noshelltemp

Afterwards this works as hoped.

:r ! echo -e 'foo\nbar\nbaz' | fzf -m

It’s probably easier to run your commands with :terminal (which is fully interactive) and then paste things you need out of the new window.

FWIW, on macOS with vim, the following works (though the UX is odd):

:read !read && echo "$REPLY"

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