When I use :read <filename> in Vim, does it only look in the current working directory?

Is there a way to set up vim to have the :read read reference multiple directories when attempting to open a particular file?

  • 1
    You can give full path.it should work :)
    – SibiCoder
    Commented Jun 23, 2016 at 4:01
  • If someone is looking for a convenient way to open files in vim's 'runtimepath' directories, there is the plugin github.com/tpope/vim-scriptease which provides :Vedit for that. E.g. :Vedit plugin/scriptease.vim to open the actual plugins file. Otherwise this question sounds like the use case of :find.
    – Hotschke
    Commented Jun 27, 2016 at 9:23

1 Answer 1


You cannot configure the path that :read will use. It will always start from the current directory. :read is not affected by the path variable in vim (see :h path). Although, see the workaround sections below.

Note that once you input :read into the prompt you can use tab for file and directory completion, including going up (with ..) and down the directory tree.

Workaround 1: use :find

:find will open the file if it is present in any directory present in the path variable. If you set the path as:

:set path=.,/home/me/myfiles

Then when you perform:

:find myfile

And myfile is not present in the working directory, vim will look for /home/me/myfiles/myfile and open it instead (if it exists). You can have as many paths, separated by commas (,), in the path variable as needed.

:h path is very useful.

Workaround 2: script it

If you need the full functionality of :read (e.g. to add the contents of a file to another file), you can use the fact that :read can use the standard output of a command:

:read !<command>

Therefore you can write a script such as (I'm using bash here for brevity):

cd /home/me/myfiles
cat $1

Let's say that the script is in the executable path (PATH on *nix, %PATH% on windows) and is called myread.sh, then you can perform:

:r !myread.sh myfile

To open /home/me/myfiles/myfile from any working directory.

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