I am trying to write simple function which runs a shell command and prints the result into vims shell output window, this here is a basic version of the function which does work:
function defined in ~/.vimrc

function! Runphp()
    let s:runphp='cat /tmp/php_snippet | php'

file /tmp/php_snippet

$a = ['apple', 'orange', 'bannana', 'pear'];

If I run :call Runphp() vim prints the result of the executed PHP in the result window, all good.
The problem occurs where the <?php tag doesn't already exist in /tmp/php_snippet i.e.

file /tmp/php_snippet looks like this:

$a = ['apple', 'orange', 'bannana', 'pear'];

and I try to inject <?php as part of the shell command, i.e.

function! Runphp()
    let s:runphp='{ echo "<?php"; cat /tmp/php_snippet } | php'

If I :call Runphp() now, vim returns

Error detected while processing function Runphp:
line 3:
E484: Can't open file /tmp/vReTqKG/9

How can I deal with this error so I can get this extra <?php injected into the shell command?

  • 2
    Brace-enclosed compound commands are supposed to end with either a newline or a semicolon before the closing brace.
    – muru
    Commented May 15, 2016 at 23:57
  • 1
    @muru nice spotting! your knowledge always impresses me. thanks Commented May 16, 2016 at 0:11

1 Answer 1


From man bash:

Compound Commands
   A compound command is one of the following:
   { list; }
          list  is simply executed in the current shell environment.  list
          must be terminated with a newline or semicolon.  This  is  known
          as  a  group  command. 

Note: in { echo "<?php"; cat /tmp/php_snippet } | php, you need a ; before the closing brace. Unless you're using zsh, in which case the whole thing would have worked fine.

The output from bash isn't particularly helpful:

$ bash -c '{ echo "<?php"; cat /tmp/php_snippet } | php'  
bash: -c: line 1: syntax error: unexpected end of file

However, I can find no way to get system to return even this error message, without manually calling bash -c.

  • Yes it would be interesting if vim use reliably use zsh. I'm assuming - but could be wrong - that the shell vim uses for system() is based on what you have set as your default shell for your UNIX system account. When I have set zsh as default, I have experienced errors in vimdiff so I keep the system shell as bash - then run exec zsh at the end of .bashrc so vim continues to use bash and I get zsh at prompt. it takes a bit longer to start shell but its workable Commented May 16, 2016 at 23:01
  • Odd, I have never experienced any problems in Vimdiff (my shell is zsh across Ubuntu and Arch Linux systems). Probably a bug fixed in newer Vims.
    – muru
    Commented May 16, 2016 at 23:02
  • I used to get the errors on Ubuntu 14.04 when using vimdiff as git difftool. I am now running 16.04 with vim-gtk from pi-rho repo and I just tested changing the shell to zsh. It's now worse, errors in core vim and more errors in vimdiff. e.g. when running git difftool- "includes-shared/vim/user_setup_commands.sh" [readonly] 310L, 9093C/usr/bin/zsh: can't open input file: globstar /usr/bin/zsh: can't open input file: globstar E810: Cannot read or write temp files E97: Cannot create diffs Commented May 16, 2016 at 23:39
  • @the_velour_fog O.o no errors on 14.04 or 16.04. How did you set zsh as your shell?
    – muru
    Commented May 16, 2016 at 23:47
  • added set shell=/bin/bash into ~/.vimrc seems to have fixed it. so now zsh is the default vim uses bash. I got the idea after searching and finding this <coderwall.com/p/lzf7ig/using-vim-with-fish-shell> Commented May 16, 2016 at 23:48

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