Learn Vimscript the Hard Way

String Functions

Vim has many built-in functions to manipulate strings. In this chapter we'll look at a few of the most important ones.


The first function we'll look at is strlen. Run the following command:

:echom strlen("foo")

Vim displays 3, which is the length of the string "foo". Now try the following command:

:echom len("foo")

Vim once again displays 3. When used with Strings len and strlen have identical effects. We'll come back to len later in the book.


Run the following command (note that it's an echo and not an echom):

:echo split("one two three")

Vim displays ['one', 'two', 'three']. The split function splits a String into a List. We'll talk about Lists shortly, but for now don't worry too much about them.

You can also tell Vim to use a separator other than "whitespace" for splitting. Run the following command:

:echo split("one,two,three", ",")

Vim will once again display ['one', 'two', 'three'], because the second argument to split tells it to split the string on the comma character instead of on whitespace.


Not only can you split strings, you can also join them. Run the following command:

:echo join(["foo", "bar"], "...")

Vim will display foo...bar. Don't worry about the list syntax for now.

split and join can be paired to great effect. Run the following command:

:echo join(split("foo bar"), ";")

Vim displays foo;bar. First we split the string "foo bar" into a list, then we joined that list together using a semicolon as the separator.

Lower and Upper Case

Vim has two functions to change the case of Strings. Run the following commands:

:echom tolower("Foo")
:echom toupper("Foo")

Vim displays foo and FOO. This should be pretty easy to understand.

In many languages (like Python) a common idiom is to force strings to lowercase before comparing them to perform a case-insensitive comparison. In Vimscript this isn't necessary because we have the case-insensitive comparison operators. Reread the chapter on comparisons if you don't remember those.

It's up to you to decide whether to use tolower and ==#, or just ==? to perform case-sensitive comparisons. There doesn't seem to be any strong preference in the Vimscript community. Pick one and stick to it for all of your scripts.


Run :echo split('1 2') and :echo split('1,,,2', ','). Do they behave the same?

Read :help split().

Read :help join().

Read :help functions and skim the list of built-in functions for ones that mention the word "String". Use the / command to make it easier (remember, Vim's help files can be navigated like any other kind of file). There are a lot of functions here, so don't feel like you need to read the documentation for every single one. Just try to get an idea of what's available if you need it in the future.