I find myself performing a small shell loop (involving vim) to transform files into the correct line endings for my system. It looks as follows:

for i in *; do vim -c 'set ff=dos' -c 'wq' $i; done

It works. The problem is that the terminal flashes during the loop as vim opens and closes repeatedly. There should be a more elegant way to perform this.

Attempt 1 (-e -s)

I tried -e and -s from :h arguments

for i in *; do vim -e -s -c 'set ff=dos' -c 'wq' $i; done

but it is not doing what I believed it would do. set ff= is an ex command alright, and the command above works if I do not include -s. But if I leave -s out it opens and closes vim just like the original command.

Attempt 2 (:argdo)

I'm afraid of argdo because I never understood how it can perform changes to several buffers without writing them back to disk. And I just run into this exact issue in this attempt. I open all files with vim * and try:

:argdo set ff=unix

But after changing the current file I get:

E37: No write since last change (add ! to override)

I'm probably missing something simple in both attempts. I'm very keen on finding a good solution for attempt 1, since it is easier to automate.

What is the elegant way of performing such a multi-file conversion in vim?

  • If you just want to change the newlines to DOS newlines, maybe Vim is a bit of a clunky tool for it on the command line? Jun 23, 2016 at 12:49
  • @Kusalananda - Whelp, yeah it is kind of brute forcing it. I have a sed script to perform that as well but it does not work properly on AIX. And i cannot be arsed to compile GNU sed on AIX (i already managed to compile vim and it was enough of a pain).
    – grochmal
    Jun 24, 2016 at 0:44
  • Does the shell program unix2dos work for you?
    – wbg
    Jul 3, 2016 at 6:20
  • @wbg my biggest problem with dos encoding is on AIX, and AIX misses a lot of programs common to linux distros, unix2dos is one of them. Yes, using AIX (and HP-UX) today is crap, i know, but it isn't me who decides.
    – grochmal
    Jul 3, 2016 at 12:44
  • I hate when a *nix doesn't have a common tool I rely upon. It might not be hard to compile versus getting vim to compile.
    – wbg
    Jul 3, 2016 at 17:02

2 Answers 2


You can use the following, it is nearly what you have done (using another example to see difference), you need to add the hidden option:

$ touch a b c
$ cat *
$ vi * +"set hidden" +"argdo r\!ls" +"xall"
$ cat *




set hidden tells vim you can switch buffer without saving them.

If you still want to use your loop, you can do the same:

for i in *; do vim +"r\!ls" +"x" $i; done
  • Do you have something about changing buffers without writing them to disk in your vimrc? When i try to replicate your example only the first file receives the output from ls. Then before vim closes (due to xall) E37: No write since last change (add ! to override) quickly flashes through the screen (terminal scroll locks are a blessing). I'm actually doing vim * +'argdo r!ls' +'xall' because i have not vi alias, but that shall not make a difference.
    – grochmal
    Jun 23, 2016 at 22:05
  • Yeah you are right, I have set hidden, let me add that.
    – nobe4
    Jun 23, 2016 at 22:11

I already accepted an answer but I found a simpler way to perform this. Given a couple of files:

$ echo yay > a
$ echo yay > b
$ echo yay > c
$ file *
a: ASCII text
b: ASCII text
c: ASCII text

I can use the several :argdo commands separated by |, this way I do not need to rely on :set hidden:

$ vim -u NONE -c 'argdo set ff=dos | w' -c 'q' *
$ file *
a: ASCII text, with CRLF line terminators
b: ASCII text, with CRLF line terminators
c: ASCII text, with CRLF line terminators

It works similar to :set hidden + :xall in terms of how the command appears on the screen but it writes the files one by one.

  • Nice, you should accept your answer instead of mine :)
    – nobe4
    Jun 28, 2016 at 15:42

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