How to Search in Vim / Vi?

Vim/Vi is an open-source text editor in Linux based operating system used for editing words or patterns. We can search the words/patterns forward and backward in Vim. The search command helps you to find the matching word from the document directly.

This guide will assist you in searching the words/patterns easily in Vim/Vi. The following points will be discussed in this article:

Let’s discuss these methods in detail in the next section.

How to Search in Vim?

In normal or visual modes, the different ways to search the word/pattern are possible in Vim/Vi text editor. Let’s discuss it!

Example 1: Search Forward in Vim

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The forward search means from the start to the end of the document. To search “forward” in Vim/Vi text Editor, follow the below steps:

  • Open the file using the “vim filename” command in the Vim text editor and press the forward-slash (“/”):
  • After “/”, search the word/pattern (in this case: “Vim”) and press “Enter”. The matched word will be highlighted:
  • To navigate to the next matching word in the document, press “n” for moving forward and press “N” for moving in the reverse direction.

Example 2: Search Backward in Vim

To search a keyword in the “backward” direction in the Vim text editor, follow the below-mentioned steps:

  • Open Vim and press the “?”.for backward search:
  • Enter the desired keyword after the “?” (in this example: text), and hit the “Enter” key:
  • To navigate for the matching word within the Vim document, press “n” to move backward for the next occurrence or “N” for moving forward.

Example 3: Search with a Command in Vim

We can search for a word in Vim using the below pattern. Replace “editor” with the specified searched word. To search the word “editor” in my document:

/\<editor\>

It will take you to the last occurrence of the searched word; press “n” or “N” to navigate to the next occurrence in the document.

Example 4: Search the Current Word Forward & Backward in Vim

Sometimes, you need to search the occurrences of the current word in the entire document; Vim allows you to search the current word. Take the cursor to the search (in my case: “is”) word and press “*” to search forward and “#” to search backward:

Note: The occurrence “line number” and index on the specific line are also shown on the bottom-right side.

Example 5: Search Word Without Case Sensitivity

The Vim editor is case-sensitive, as the terminal. But if you want to make the Vim case insensitive, use the “:set ignorecase” in Vim:

:set ignorecase

Now, search for any word with case insensitivity. In the below example: I searched for “LiNe”, and it’s showing results for “line”, which is not possible without “:set ignorecase”:

Another way to search for case insensitive words directly is using the “\c” with the search command. For example: to search for Vim, we can use the following pattern:

/\<vim\>\c

Example 6: Highlight the Search Word

If you want to highlight the searched word for clarity, use the “:set hlsearch” and then find the desired word. The matching word will be highlighted (yellow):

: set hlsearch

That’s all from this article.

Conclusion

To search a word/pattern in Vim/Vi, use the “/<word>” for forward and “?<word>” syntax for backward search in the document. Moreover, we can search the word utilizing the “/\<editor\>” command, and for searching the current word in the whole document, use “*” or “#”. The method of avoiding case sensitivity and highlighting the text is also discussed in the guide.