I'm writing a script that does a search like so: normal /needle^M. This works like I want, except that I want to be able to use n or N to repeat the search.

In case it helps, here's the full function:

function! MakeChoices()
    let start = line('.')

    let choiceStartLine = search('^*choice', 'bW')

    let choiceEndLine = search('^\S.*', 'W') "End is first line that starts with non-whitespace

    "If above search fails, might be at bottom of buffer
    if choiceEndLine == 0
        let choiceEndLine = search('^$', 'W') "End is first empty line

    "Now go back up to the last *goto
    let choiceEndLine = search('*goto', 'bW')

    "Get the entire *choice block and put it in gotoBlock
    let gotoBlock = getline(choiceStartLine, choiceEndLine)

    "Make labelArray (contains all labels to goto)
    let labelArray = []

    for cur in gotoBlock
        if match(cur, '*goto') != -1
            "echo 'cur: '.cur
            let curParsed = matchlist(cur, '*goto \(\S\+\)')
            "echo curParsed
            if len(curParsed) > 1
                let curLabel = curParsed[1]
                echo 'ERROR: Bad *goto ('.cur.')'
                return -1
            call add(labelArray, curLabel)  

    "Make newline after choice block if needed
    if strlen(getline(choiceEndLine+1)) > 0
        echo 'big line: '.getline(choiceEndLine+1)
        call cursor(choiceEndLine, 1)

    call cursor(choiceEndLine+1, 1)

    "Put the new label blocks
    let skippedLabels = ''
    let numNewLabels = 0
    for cur in labelArray
        if !search('*label '.cur, 'wn')
            let numNewLabels += 1
            put='*label '.cur
            put='[This option is yet to be written.]'
            let skippedLabels .= cur.' '

    "Remove trailing blank lines (Up to a point)
    let nextlines = getline(line('.')+1, line('.')+3)
    if len(nextlines) == 3
        if nextlines[0] == '' && nextlines[1] == '' && nextlines[2] == ''
            normal "_3dd
        elseif nextlines[0] == '' && nextlines[1] == ''
            normal "_2dd
        elseif nextlines[0] == ''
            normal "_dd

    "Move to first label's text (use ctrl-v ctrl-m to input the <CR> at
    if numNewLabels != 0
        call cursor(choiceEndLine, 1)
        normal /\[This option is yet to be written.\]

    "Print status message
    if len(skippedLabels) > 0
        echo 'Skipped: '.skippedLabels
        echo 'New labels created: '.numNewLabels


The line in question is near the end, and you can probably just ignore the rest of the code. Basically, this function parses some code (in a language called ChoiceScript) and outputs a set of stock templates based on that code, then jumps (via the vim search command in question) to the first stock template.

For example, let's say I begin with this ChoiceScript code:

    #Option A
        *goto optionA
    #Option B
        *goto optionB

Then, after running the function, the file becomes:

    #Option A
        *goto optionA
    #Option B
        *goto optionB

*label optionA
[This option is yet to be written.]

*label optionB
[This option is yet to be written.]

The cursor will be on the first "[This option is yet to be written.]", and I want to be able to hit n to jump to the second if that's the option I want to work on first.

  • 3
    I used it in a function and had no problem using n or N to repeat the search. Do you have an interfering plugin? Try with vim -Nu NONE, manually defining the function or action.
    – muru
    Jun 22, 2015 at 3:07
  • @muru, thanks for the suggestion. I just tried it, and it still didn't work. Hitting n repeated a search earlier in the / history, but if I typed / and then hit the up arrow, the latest, function-called search appeared. I hit enter, it worked, and then n worked, so this is very odd. Perhaps it's a bug in vim itself? My version is 7.4.692. Jun 22, 2015 at 7:26
  • I attempted a workaround by putting normal /<Up>^MN after the normal /needle^M line in my function, but the <Up> didn't work. Is it possible somehow or is there some other workaround? Jun 22, 2015 at 7:42
  • 3
    You can set the regexp used for n by assigning it to the / register: let @/="needle". You don't even need to run a search first for that to work.
    – lcd047
    Jun 22, 2015 at 7:43
  • 1
    Please add your full function and possibly more background to your question. What you ask is the normal behavior so there must be something else.
    – romainl
    Jun 22, 2015 at 9:03

3 Answers 3


From :help function-search-undo

The last used search pattern and the redo command "." will not be changed by the function. This also implies that the effect of :nohlsearch is undone when the function returns.

This is a bit of a "hidden" feature... Another "hidden" feature is that assigning directly to @/ overrides this behaviour:

fun! X()
    let @/ = 'Hello'
  • Thanks for the info on search(). However, setting @/ is what I actually wanted to do by using normal instead. Jul 2, 2015 at 20:04
  • @Gantron Right; updated the answer. Jul 3, 2015 at 9:19
  • Good to know. However, if vim works this way, why does the search wind up in the search history? Jul 4, 2015 at 18:40

One neat trick is to use feedkeys("/pattern\<CR>"). This works differently than using :normal because the keys being fed into vim gets evaluated after the function returns so the problem with search direction and search pattern being reset goes away. ;-) This actually lets you control both search pattern AND search direction from your function. I have found no other way to do this.


You probably are doing that inside a function, which will reset the / after it completes. From :help quote_/:

Note that the valued is restored when returning from a function |function-search-undo|.

To overcome this behavior you need to manually update the Last search pattern register by adding the following command to the function along with the search /needle call:

let @/='needle'

Note: using needle only as an example search.

  • Forcing its storage by setting @/ worked. Thanks! However, what do you mean / resets after the function completes? The search in question shows up when I hit / followed by the up arrow when back in normal mode after running my function, so doesn't that mean it didn't reset? Jul 2, 2015 at 20:10

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