I have a file, e.g. ~/abc def.mp3 that I want to open from within a Vim buffer that already contains these lines.

If there were no whitespaces in the filename, I could simply open the file with the standard application for that file type by having the cursor on its name somewhere and pressing gx. How could I make this work with a file that includes whitespaces?

I already tried to visually select it and press gx (with or withouth including a \ before the whitespace, surrounding double quotes etc.) but can't figure it out.

  • 4
    Visual selection + gx works for me (a line containing ~/foo bar.txt, with visual selection from ~ to the final t, as opposed to a selection to the end of line, pressing gx opens gvim with the appropriate file).
    – muru
    Commented May 26, 2016 at 0:01
  • 1
    @muru: Hm, gx does not work for me when I am in visual mode, I just tried your example with a text file. gf on the other hand does work. When I press gx in visual mode, I get the usual error sound GNOME produces when an operation fails. Any ideas what might cause this behaviour? Perhaps I have to go through my list of plugins...
    – cbaumhardt
    Commented May 26, 2016 at 0:22
  • If you cant open filename with spaces, You can escape spaces in filename by typing \ before each space
    – SibiCoder
    Commented May 26, 2016 at 2:09

1 Answer 1


This is more of a workaround until gx is fixed.

I created a map key that will do the job. The trick was to surround the path with " [ double quotes ]

Disclaimer : This uses open command that works only on a Mac

There are some gotchas that you need to keep in mind while using this

The assumptions are that

  1. There is only one file path on a given line and
  2. There is no other text after the file path on that line
  3. I have only assumed *nix like paths

Scenario 1 : File name starting after a hypen

Ex : - /path/ to /file with spaces.pdf

I had the above line in my markdown file. So I created a specific map key for this scenario

:nnoremap <C-o> ^wy$:! open "^R""^M^M

  • The ^w takes the cursor to the first word from the beginning of the line
  • y$ copies the rest of the line to clipboard
  • ! open : Please make sure you keep that space between ! and open
  • ^R" inserts the data present in clipboard to the command mode
    • Note how the copied text is surrounded by a pair of "
    • This was needed to take care of the spaces in the file path

So, now with the cursor on any character of the file path, pressing <ctrl-o> opens me the file with the associated application

Scenario 2 : File name starting anywhere in a line

Ex : some text : /path/ to /file with spaces.pdf

Assumption here is that :

  1. All file paths are absolute and begin with a /
  2. There is no / in the text before the absolute path
  3. There is only one . in the file name

:nnoremap <C-p> ^f/vf.ey:! open "^R""^M^M

  • f/ moves the cursor to the first / on the line
  • f. moves the cursor to the first . within the absolute file path
  • e takes the cursor to the end of file path
  • y copies the text that is blocked by the v : visual mode

The rest is same as Scenario 1.

So, now with the cursor on any character of the file path, pressing <ctrl-p> opens me the file with the associated application

Ofcourse, instead of using <ctrl-o> and <ctrl-p>, you can specify map keys that suit you.

  • 1
    Welcome to Vi and Vim! You may want to consider using nnoremap
    – D. Ben Knoble
    Commented Aug 18, 2020 at 19:35
  • 1
    Thanks @D.BenKnoble Updated the answer with your suggestion. Commented Aug 19, 2020 at 17:32

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