I'm writing down a markdown table which looks like this:

| 13/05/15 | 09:30-16:00 |  6.5 |
| 14/05/15 | 10:00-16:30 |  6.5 |
| 16/05/15 | 15:30-01:00 |  9.5 |
| 21/05/15 | 09:00-16:30 |  7.5 |
| 22/05/15 | 08:30-17:00 |  8.5 |
| 28/05/15 | 09:30-15:30 |  6   |
| 02/06/15 | 09:00-20:00 | 11   |
| 03/06/15 | 08:30-22:30 | 14   |

I'm looking for a way to quickly calculate the total of the third column and insert it in the buffer. The solution I have in mind would make use of visual-block mode (to select all the numbers) and maybe of the expression register (to do the math).

Would this be possible using native Vim commands? If not, is there a plugin that can help me?


11 Answers 11


I wrote a plugin: https://github.com/sk1418/HowMuch which supports visual selection and does math calculations.

By default the plugin supports three math-expression evaluation engines: Gnu bc, python, and vimscript. You can do the calculations on a certain one or let the plugin automatically choose one for you.

It works with your example like this:

enter image description here

For details please read the README on github.

  • It would be helpful if you'd include the keystrokes required to select, sum and insert in your answer. Commented Dec 4, 2017 at 16:32
  • @pdoherty926 For details please read the README on github. Even if I put the keystrokes I pressed for this problem here, I don't see how helpful it could be, it is just 3 or 4 key-combinations. If my script is really needed by someone, he/she will check the details anyway.
    – Kent
    Commented Dec 4, 2017 at 16:46

If you don't want to use plugins or drop to a bash script, you can do something like the following:

  • c-V {motions} "ay copy column into "a
  • :let @a = substitute(@a, 'c-V c-J', '+', 'g') replace the column newlines with +
  • ic-R=c-Ra run the replaced "a through the expression register

Alternatively: make the expression history entry re-usable for further sums of columns

  • ctrl-V {motions} y put column into yank register ""
  • ictrl-R=eval(substitute(@", '\n', '+', 'g'))

Repeating for another column:

  • ctrl-V {motion} y (unchanged)
  • ictrl-R=<CR> or if you did something else with the expression register, cycle through the history with the up arrow key (or with ctrl-P if you remapped it):
  • 1
    For some reason I only managed to use your solution with double quotes " instead single quotes ' on the substitute command. Do you know if is there any reason for that ? Commented Sep 10, 2015 at 19:52
  • @vappolinario it works both ways for me, so I'm afraid I don't know, sorry.
    – Hovercouch
    Commented Sep 10, 2015 at 20:17
  • @Hovercouch Could you elaborate on the third step? How, exactly, would one go about running the replacement through the expression register? Commented Dec 4, 2017 at 16:09
  • 1
    How about making a map: ` nnoremap <c-s> :s/$/\=eval(substitute(@0, '[^0-9]', '+', 'g'))/<cr>` Commented Jul 3, 2019 at 17:35
  • 1
    @NeilG it means "type ctrl-R in insert-mode", odd that it's breaking for you. <CR> means "hit return".
    – Hovercouch
    Commented Dec 14, 2022 at 20:22
:r!awk '{sum+=$6} END {print "Total: "sum}' %


:r ........... read (put result in this file)
! ............ external command
awk .......... external tool
{sum+=$6} .... sixth field (awk considers spaces as field separator)
END .......... at the end
{print "Total: "sum} --> string "Total: " plus your result
% ............ current file

Here's a function that uses Vim's expression register instead of awk:

" This function requires you to select the numbers
fun! SumVis()
        let l:a_save = @a
        norm! gv"ay
        let @a = substitute(@a,'[^0-9. ]','+','g')
        exec "norm! '>o"
        exec "norm! iTotal \<c-r>=\<c-r>a\<cr>"
        let @a = l:a_save
vnoremap <leader>s :<C-u>call SumVis()<cr>

Using the mapping above, all you have to do after loading the function is select the numbers you want to sum and use <leader>s to sum up the selected area.

Function explanation:

It uses try/finally/endtry structure to capture errors.

let l:a_save = @a ............................. if we have register 'a' we save it temporarily
norm! gv"ay ................................... gv --> reselects and captures selection to 'register a'
let @a = substitute(@a,'[^0-9. ]','+','g') .... removes all but numbers, dots and spaces from 'register a' and puts '+' among the numbers
exec "norm! '>o"  ............................. opens new line below selection. see :h '>
exec "norm! iTotal: \<c-r>=\<c-r>a\<cr>" ...... insert "Total: " plus 'expression register result
let @a = l:a_save ............................. restores original 'a' register content

If you want to try this function, do the following: Copy this function in your browser and run this command on vim :@+ this will allow you to use :call SumVis() normally.

:@+ ......... loads `+` register making the function available

It needs you to make a visual block selection with ctrl+v, unselect and finally call the function. Or you can use the suggested map which by itself removes the selection before calculating.

  • 2
    In that SumVis() function you could add a let @a = substitute(@a, '^[\n\t ]\+\|[\n\t ]\+$', '', 'g') before the existing substitution to remove beginning and trailing whitespace, and add a \+ to the substitution to allow for multiple whitespaces in between the numbers.
    – Jake
    Commented Jan 7, 2022 at 0:23
  • Vim has now a trim function, meaning you can do: let @a = substitute(trim(@a),'[^0-9. ]','+','g') Commented May 31, 2023 at 1:01

My csv plugin allows this. Use the :SumCol command and be sure to read the documentation.


Making a plugin or coding this in vimscript seems a little heavy. I believe in a plugin-free vim, and good composition with external tools.

Here is a 1-time command, based on user2571881's, that works even if the buffer has not been saved.

:%!awk -F '|' '{print; sum+=$4}; END {print "Total: "sum}'

If you want to save this command for future use, you might want to name it:

:command! -range=% -nargs=1 SumColumn <line1>,<line2>!awk -F '|' '{print; sum+=$('<args>' + 1)} END {print "Total: "sum}'

It works with visual selection. If you select a few rows and go into command mode, vim will prefix your command with :'<,'>, which is the line range for the visual selection. So you can run:

:'<,'>SumColumn 3

and it will only sum the 3rd column of the selected rows. By default the range is %, so

:SumColumn 3

will sum the 3rd column of all lines.

EDIT: If you want to be able to specify other field separators and default the column counted to the last one, you can cover the command in bash and handle the arguments with it, like this:

:command! -range=% -nargs=* SumColumn <line1>,<line2>!bash -c 'awk -F ${2:-|} "{print; sum+=\$(${1:-NF - 2} + 1)} END {print \"Total: \"sum}"' sumcolumn <args>



will count the last column of a table with "|" field separators,

:SumColumn 3

will count the 3rd column of a table with "|" field separators, and

:SumColumn 3 +

will count the 3rd column of a table with "+" field separators.

  • How can one deal with other possible field separators? Just for making the solution more generic. Commented Sep 15, 2017 at 15:59
  • @user2571881, I've edited the answer, showing that.
    – JoL
    Commented Sep 15, 2017 at 16:32
  • @JoL adding functions like SumColumn to vimrc means you simply have your 'plugins' in your vimrc. Hopefully, you are good at maintaining this with time. For me plugins provide documentation, separation into meaningful parts, taking advantage of others ingenuity. I contribute to upstream which improves amazing plugins which no one has time to create all of them on their own (except tpope). Do you not use vim-surround, vim-fugitive, vim-easy-align/vim-lion, vim-unimpaired, vim-commentary, ultisnips or ft-specific ones such as vim-go, vim-rails, vimtex?
    – Hotschke
    Commented Jul 26, 2018 at 10:54
  • @Hotschke When I got here, I saw the question and thought, "well, just pipe through awk." But then, I saw the accepted answer was, "hey, download this hundreds of LOC plugin and install it." Third answer was, "hey, download this thousands of LOC plugin and install it." It's overkill and bloat. Even if you needed to sum columns more than once in your life, it's overkill. My answer is meant to show how you can do this in a single no-plugins, no-nonsense command if you only need to do this once, and how you can make a simple command with parameters out of it if you need to do this often.
    – JoL
    Commented Jul 26, 2018 at 15:31
  • 1
    @JoL Thanks for your thoughts. I certainly understand you. I also care about startuptime, ditched quite a few plugins and have become quite picky about added startup time from plugins. However, for certain tasks I really enjoy, e.g. an operator for commenting, an indent-text object, surround operator, snippets for some languages which have a lot of boilerplate code, being able to look immediately at the git history of a file when editing. I have also plugins such SimpylFold for folding in python files which complete incomplete vim features. I guess I will always use plugins.
    – Hotschke
    Commented Jul 26, 2018 at 18:25

If the columns are properly aligned, this can be done with a simple oneliner.

  1. first select the column in block-wise visual mode as other answers have demonstrate -> CTRL-V + move the cursor
  2. yank the selection with y
  3. type: :echo eval(join(split(@", '\_s\+'), '+')) which splits the text yanked on spaces and new lines, rejoin the element with + character, and evaluate the string.
  4. another way to proceed: replace newlines with + and evaluate: :echo eval(substitute(@", "\n", '+', 'g')) -- eval() is the closest thing to reduce we have.

If not, you'll have to use other tricks to count fields. For instance, split(getline('.'), "[ \t|]\\+") can be used to split the columns from a row in your array. From there, it becomes as simple as:

  1. select your lines in visual mode
  2. :echo eval(join(map(getline("'<", "'>"), { -> split(v:val, "[ \t|]\\+")[2] }), '+'))

In order to get rid of the magical values (field number - 1, and +), it can become a command

:command! -range=% -nargs=+ OnField 
    \ echo { field, what -> eval(join(map(getline(<line1>, <line2>), { -> split(v:val, "[ \t|]\\+")[field-1] }), what))}(<f-args>)

Which can be used with:

:OnField  3 +
:2,5OnField  3 +
:'<,'>Onfield 3 *   " after line-wise selection

Note: Here I use lambdas from Vim 7.4.1xxx

  • 2
    As of 8.2.0878, Vim provides a reduce() function. So you could also write: echo split(@", '\_s\+')->map("str2float(v:val)")->reduce({a,v -> a+v}).
    – user938271
    Commented Jun 23, 2020 at 22:30
  • 1
    What is '\_s\+' in step 3? It looks like a very strange regex. Commented Oct 1, 2021 at 22:29
  • 1
    @BigMcLargeHuge, it should be documented under :h /\_s and :h /\+. It means any kind of spaces (even newlines), and at least one, in default mode (see documentation about magic mode) Commented Oct 2, 2021 at 10:21

vmap ++ from plugin vmath by Damian Conway

  1. Install plugin from github (only 178 sloc) e.g.

    $ wget https://raw.githubusercontent.com/thoughtstream/Damian-Conway-s-Vim-Setup/master/plugin/vmath.vim -P ~/.vim/pack/manual/start/damians-tools/plugin
  2. Add mapping to your vimrc

    vmap <silent><expr>  ++  VMATH_YankAndAnalyse()

    However, I would suggest to use something else, e.g. gA

  3. Move to the third colum 2f| and select the column in visual-block mode <C-V>G$
  4. Press ++ (or your chosen mapping)
  5. Results are shown and stored in registers (sum in s)
  6. Insert sum from register s, e.g. with "sp

For a presentation of this plugin see the YouTube video Damian Conway, "More Instantly Better Vim" - OSCON 2013 (starting at minute 29).


External cli tool csvstat from csvkit

:!csvstat -d '|' -H -c 4 --sum %

Short explanation of the options

  • -d DELIMITER Delimiting character of the input CSV file. Here |.
  • -H Specify that the input CSV file has no header row.
  • -c COLUMNS A comma separated list of column indices or names to be examined. Defaults to all columns.
  • --sum Only output sums.

This tool also provides min, max, mean, median, stdev (standard deviation), count unique values, list of frequent values.

Insert into file with

<C-r>=system("csvstat -d '|' -H -c 4 --sum FILENAME 2> /dev/null")  


On macOS csvkit is available via homebrew and on Debian/Ubuntu and similar it can be installed with $ sudo apt install csvkit.


This is a way to do it: First, add the following to your .vimrc:

command! -range Add
    \ silent exec "norm gv\"ay" |
    \ let array = split(@a, "[\\n\\t ]\\+") |
    \ let sum = 0.00 |
    \ for item in array |
    \     let sum += str2float(item) |
    \ endfor |
    \ echo sum

then reload vim, and highlight a column of numbers in visual selection mode, and then type:


and it will print out the sum of the numbers in the column.


I just did it this way:

  • thru the block selection copied all values, as a column to a new buffer
  • quickly edited the text to construct a mathematical expression enter image description here
  • copy/pasted it to the default system calculator enter image description here

ctrl-v for block select, select the column, paste below G p

select the pasted text, press I, now you are in insert mode, type + press esc esc to escape. now each line has a + select it again press J

select the line with V type command :!bc, it will show as :'<,'>!bc

you got the sum


  • V!bc is the same as !!bc. for the join, you could either use gvJ or :'>j[oin]
    – D. Ben Knoble
    Commented Mar 28, 2023 at 21:34
  • Thanks, i didn't know about '!!bc` Commented May 15, 2023 at 7:11

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