In a vimscript-function, I need to assign a matched string to a variable l:matched after calling search() and I am wondering if there is a shorter way than what I am currently doing:

let l:pattern   = '\v^Foo: \zs.*'
let l:line      = search(l:pattern)
let l:line_text = getline(l:line)
let l:matched   = matchstr(l:line, l:pattern)

Ideally, I'd want something like

let l:matched = search_text(l:pattern)

without resorting to getline(). Is there such a vim function that I seem unable to find?

  • 1
    Sadly, the answer is no. Commented Aug 13, 2015 at 19:07
  • 2
    protip: local variables are the default inside of functions so you can probably forgo the l: namespace declaration. Commented Aug 13, 2015 at 20:39
  • 2
    in a function you can probably do: :let @/="pattern" | norm! ygn and have the content in register 0 available. Commented Aug 9, 2017 at 6:05

1 Answer 1


Since the cursor is placed on the 1st letter of the match, you could probably do a :normal! y$ after the search, and get the register content in your local variable.

Another approach, which I think would work here very well, would be to use :substitute with the n flag (i.e. without an actual substitution):

function! ActOn(match)
    " do something with the match
    echo a:match
    " [...]

function! FindAndCall(regex, func_name)
    execute ':keeppatterns %s/' . a:regex . '/\=' . a:func_name. '(submatch(0))/gn'

... and which you call like this:

:call FindAndCall('^Foo: \zs.*', 'ActOn')

This practically makes ActOn a callback function - it will be evaluated for each match.

  • 1
    Note: :s with a sub-replace-expression and the n flag is only available since Vim 7.3.627+. Otherwise you need to do an actually substitution (lame as this will mark the buffer as modified). You probably also want to save and restore the search register, @/, or use :keeppatterns. Commented Aug 13, 2015 at 20:43
  • 3
    Please fix the typo: keeppaterns -> keeppatterns. It is causing E488: Trailing characters which is rather tricky to trace back to the cause. Thanks!
    – artemave
    Commented Aug 8, 2017 at 8:13

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