execute command is used to evaluate a string as if it were a Vimscript
command. We saw it in an earlier chapter, but now that we know a bit more about
Vimscript Strings we're going to take another look.
Run the following command:
:execute "echom 'Hello, world!'"
echom 'Hello, world!' as a command and dutifully echoes it to
the screen and message log. Execute is a very powerful tool because it lets you
build commands out of arbitrary strings.
Let's try a more useful example. Prepare by opening a file in Vim, then using
:edit foo.txt in the same window to open a new buffer. Now run the
:execute "rightbelow vsplit " . bufname("#")
Vim will open the first file in a vertical split to the right of the second file. What happened here?
First, Vim builds the command string by concatenating
"rightbelow vsplit "
with the result of the
We'll look at the function more later, but for now just trust that it returns
the path of the previous buffer. You can play with it using
echom if you want
to see for yourself.
bufname is evaluated Vim builds the string
execute command evaluates this as a Vimscript command which
opens the split with the file.
In most programming languages the use of such an "eval" construct to evaluate
strings as program code is frowned upon (to put it lightly). Vimscript's
execute command doesn't have the same stigma for two reasons.
First, most Vimscript code only ever takes input from a single person: the user.
If the user wants to input a tricky string that will cause an
to do something bad, well, it's their computer! Contrast this with other
languages, where programs constantly take input from untrusted users. Vim is
a unique environment where the normal security concerns simply aren't common.
The second reason is that because Vimscript has sometimes arcane and tricky
execute is often the easiest, most straightforward way to get
something done. In most other languages using an "eval" construct won't usually
save you much typing, but in Vimscript it can collapse many lines into a single
:help execute to get an idea of some of the things you can and can't use
execute for. Don't dive too deeply yet -- we're going to revisit it very
:help :split, and
(notice the extra colon in the last two topics).
Add a mapping to your
~/.vimrc file that opens the previous buffer in a split
of your choosing (vertical/horizontal, above/below/left/right).