I've got clipboard=unnamed which means that when I copy from somewhere outside Vim, I can just "put" it into Vim without any additional thought. Most is the time this is perfectly adequate.

Except if I want to delete some text before pasting, in which case the deleted text occupies the * register and my old copy is nowhere to be found!

This operation is catered for within Vim because any yank also populates the 0 register, but copies from outside Vim obviously don't do this.

What can I do?

2 Answers 2


I do not use :set clipboard+=unnamed, but rather prefer to explicitly tell Vim when to use the clipboard and when not.

For your case, you can use P while in visual mode, which does not alter the unnamed register, so I would map to something like this:

xnoremap <leader>P "+P

And then you can select what you want to be overridden and use <leader>P to paste from the clipboard and it would also not change your unnamed register.


It looks like something like the following would be as good a start as any:

function! Foo()
    let clip = getreg('*')
    normal "*p
    call setreg('*', clip)
xnoremap <key> <Cmd>call Foo()<CR>

where we…

  1. define a visual mode mapping on <key>,
  2. back-up the current content of register *,
  3. put the content of register *, which replaces its content with the previously selected text,
  4. restore register * from our backup.

Now, pressing <key> should replace the visually selected text with what you just copied outside of Vim.

Note that this quick and dirty solution adds a new mapping, which might not suit your needs ("without any additional thought"). A broader solution that could be mapped to p without losing functionality might be achievable but it will certainly be a bit more involved.

It could also be expanded to update register 0 for maximum "canonicalness".

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