For easy horizontal scrolling in long lines, I use these mappings that work well for me:

map <m-[> 20zh
map <m-]> 20zl

Something that has always annoyed me is when the following use case happens (| is the current cursor position):

some |short line
some other line
some other line
some other line
some other line
some other line
some veeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeery looooooooooooooooooooooooong liiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiine

Sometimes I want to scroll horizontally and have a quick peek at the very long line just to see if there is anything interesting in there. In GUI text editors, I would just horizontally scroll with my mouse, and scroll back. In Vim, if I try to scroll with zl, here is what happens:

..me short line|
..me other line
..me other line
..me other line
..me other line
..me other line
..me veeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeery looooooooooooooooooooooooong liiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiine

I can slightly scroll for a bit (as visually demonstrated by the .. above), but then the cursor is blocked at the end of the short line. I have to explicitly position my cursor on the very long line to be able to scroll again, which is very annoying.

There is an interesting half-solution to my problem: :set virtualedit=all. It frees the cursor of any line-limit. Hitting zl a few times on the above example now works as I want (notice the "free" cursor below):

..ine          |
..ooooooooooooooong liiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiine

I only need virtualedit=all for this specific use case though. Otherwise I want the cursor to behave normally and restore the option to the default virtualedit=. And I do not want to do this manually, it should be automatic: when I start scrolling right, I want it on. When I scroll left, I still need it on except when the first characters of the lines in the file become visible again.

I am thinking about something along those lines:

map <m-]> :set virtualedit=all<cr>20zl
noremap ^ :set virtualedit=<cr>^
noremap $ :set virtualedit=<cr>$

Any idea about what to do for the SOME_VOODOO_VIMSCRIPT_MAGIC part? Getting the absolute column position for the first visible left character could help, although I do not know how to do this in Vimscript (col does not seem to do what I want). Alternate ways of solving my problems are welcome too (I just don't want any line-wrapping).


After a lot of spelunking in the VIM help section and newsgroup archives, I came up with this not-so-straightforward solution. It even works in split-windows!

map <silent> <m-[> 20zh:call SetVirtualEdit()<cr>
map <silent> <m-]> :set virtualedit=all<cr>20zl
noremap <silent> ^ :set virtualedit=<cr>^
noremap <silent> $ :set virtualedit=<cr>$

python import vim
function! SetVirtualEdit()
  let absolute_col = virtcol('.') + pyeval('vim.current.window.col')
  let absolute_col += &foldcolumn + (&number ? &numberwidth : 0)

  let is_on_leftmost_screen = screencol() == absolute_col

  if is_on_leftmost_screen
    set virtualedit=
    set virtualedit=all


  • The <silent> mapping for <m-[> is important for screencol() to work well.
  • You need Vim compiled with python support
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