• When I execute:

    :exe "normal! \<c-o>"

    , it works as expected (it jumps to the previous cursor location).

  • But when I execute:

    :exe "normal! \<c-i>"

    , it outputs the E471 error:

    E471: Argument required

    Then I need to prepend with 1 to make it work:

    :exe "normal! 1\<c-i>"

Is it a normal behaviour?

Please note I'm using vim-gtk (graphical).

Vim version : 7.4
Rustines : 1-1689

1 Answer 1


Yes I think it's a normal behavior.

In :help keycode, you can read that <C-I> and <Tab> have the same decimal keycode (9):

<Tab>       tab         CTRL-I    9 *tab* *Tab*

Which means that Vim and gVim can't make the difference between the two keys.
You can find a technical reason for this here.

So "\<C-I>" is translated into a literal tab character.
After the translation, Vim probably parses the tab as a syntax character separating a command from its arguments (here :normal from {commands}) ; like a space.
Since there's nothing after your tab, Vim doesn't pass anything to :normal, and the latter complains with the error E471: Argument required.

The solution is given in :help :normal:

    {commands} cannot start with a space.  Put a count of
    1 (one) before it, "1 " is one space.

You have to prefix the {commands} with 1 when they begin with a space (and probably with a tab).

Hitting 1 then Ctrl-I in normal mode has the same effect as hitting Ctrl-I alone.
But here on the command-line, by prefixing <C-I> with a count, you prevent Vim from parsing it as a syntax character, but rather as a part of the argument {commands}.

  • 1
    It looks a real good answer; I will look at it a bit before accepting it
    – yolenoyer
    Apr 30, 2016 at 1:46

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