In vim, when I use

:r !ls somefilename

it inserts output of that command on a new line below the current line.

If I do

let @a = system("ls")

and later


it still inserts the output on a new line below the current line.

Is there a way to make vim insert output at the current location?


5 Answers 5

:r !command 

will read the output from the command and insert it into the line under the current line. This is how vi is programmed you cannot change the behavior.

But say if you are in line number 3. If you try :r !date. It will insert the date value into line number 4.

If you want the date value to be appeared on line number 3, then you try :2r !date will insert the date value in line number 3.

  • 5
    That inserts on a different line, but still on a line of its own. I want to insert it at the current location!
    – deshmukh
    Aug 25, 2012 at 6:48

You can paste the contents of the clipboard buffer between characters with Ctrl-R * in insert mode (and a similar approach for other buffers). So if you can get the system command into a buffer, you should be set. (Source: https://stackoverflow.com/questions/1491135/paste-multi-line-string-into-gvim-at-cursor-position ).

:let @a=system("ls -l") will put the output of ls -l into register a. You can then paste it (in insert mode) with ^R-a.

  • Also, on most platforms the clipboard is synced with a register (usually *) so if you pipe your command output to your clipboard it will be in "* for you to use. Jan 24, 2017 at 21:19

Here is alternative way of pasting output from external command before the cursor:

:exe 'norm i' . system("ls -l")

or use expression register (:help @=):

"=system('ls -la')

then hit P. Or shorter way by:

<CTRL-R>=system('ls -la')<CR>
  • 4
    This is the answer.
    – Jay
    Mar 2, 2017 at 7:27
  • 1
    Agreed! This should really be the correct answer, because it includes a more programmatic solution (with :exe) which can be included in commands. Oct 17, 2019 at 0:32

In addition to let and p, we can also employ vim's functions setreg() and put like so:

:call setreg('f',system("ls"))

:put f

Note, register f was chosen in this example simply for mnemonic representation for the word "files". There's nothing particularly special about it and you're free to choose your own register.


The :r command takes a line range into which the results will be read. In vim command lines, "." in a range means "the current line." So :r ... is equivalent to :.r ..., and means "put what I'm reading after the current line.

You're free to specify the range to write to using an expression based on .. Specifically, the thing you're asking for should be easily done with:

:.-1r !ls somefilename

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