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I have 69 files in which I want to prepend lines 5 to penultimate with a short string. How could I address the penultimate line? :5,61s/^/X/g would do it if I manually look up that the last line is 62, but if I want to script it for all the files, how can I do that? I could imagine doing something like vim "+:5,$((`cat test.txt|wc -l` - 1))s/^/X/g|:x" test.txt from the command line, but as I'm not dealing with a simple search and replace as in my above example I think I won't be able to provide it from the command line, how can I do it from within vim?

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    $-1 could be used to express the second to last line. Does :5,$-1s/^/X work for you? – user9433424 May 10 '16 at 12:35
  • @user9433424 Yes, that seems to be working. – muk.li May 10 '16 at 12:38
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You can express the penultimate line with $-1. So, in your case, to prepend X in front of all the lines from the fifth down to the second to last one, you could use the following substitution command:

:5,$-1s/^/X

You can find more information on how to write a range in :help :range.

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    -1 in a range can be shorted to - as the 1 can be assumed. e.g. :5,$-s/^/X – Peter Rincker May 10 '16 at 14:12

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