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How can one move vertically, staying in the same column (implicitly adding spaces), regardless of line lengths? (If the next line is shorter than the current, j will move the cursor to the last character of the next line.) This would be useful when adding comments.

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    Maybe set virtualedit=all (but read about it first: :h virtualedit) – VanLaser Sep 11 '15 at 12:33
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You can consider set ve=insert if you just want to do virtual edit in insert mode.

set ve=all if you want to do virtual editing in all modes. This may break some macro or plugin (if the plugin doesn't check the ve option).

:h 've' to know more about virtualedit option.

You can add a mapping, easily setting the ve option to all and back for your requirements, just like toggling line numbers.

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