From help :help i_ctrl-a:

CTRL-A      Insert previously inserted text.  {not in Vi}

Let's say I have an empty buffer and I'm in normal mode.
I type i to go in insert mode.
I type (), then move the cursor one character to the left by hitting <C-h> (which I mapped to <left> in insert mode), type foo, and go back in normal mode by hitting escape.

The buffer contains: (foo)
I thought, wrongly, that the previously inserted text would be (foo) but it's not.
The previously inserted text is only foo which can be checked by typing :registers . or hitting <C-a> in insert mode again.

Why does hitting an arrow key reset the previously inserted text ?
Is there a way to make the dot register store all the text that was inserted the last time I went in insert mode even though I hit an arrow key ?

1 Answer 1


In insert mode, the left arrow key actually exits insert mode, moves the cursor, then re-enters insert mode. That breaks your change into two changes: inserting () and inserting foo. This behavior is discussed under

:help ins-special-special

The solution is to remap the left arrow key to include CTRL-G U. The example in the Vim Reference Manual is hard to find because it's not directly tagged. First go to

:help i_CTRL-G_U

then scroll down 42 lines to "An example for using CTRL-G U:" For the left arrow key, use this mapping:

inoremap <Left> <C-G>U<Left>

It seems to work, but the display of the . register by the :registers command looks weird after executing your (foo) example. On my Windows machine, it looks like this:

".  ()^GU<80>klfoo
  • 1
    Thank you very much ! That was bothering me since a long time, and never found the solution. I modified my vimrc with inoremap <C-h> <C-g>U<Left> and inoremap <C-l> <C-g>U<Right> and your solution works perfectly ! By the way, on my linux machine I've got the same weird output as you for the :registers command, so it's not coming from windows.
    – saginaw
    Dec 22, 2015 at 1:28
  • 2
    <c-g>U came with a recent patch. That may explain why you missed it so far. Dec 22, 2015 at 8:03
  • Do you think there's a way to make it work with Ctrl+Right/Left as well? I tried analogous mappings but they don't seem to work. Feb 6, 2018 at 20:35

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