Search a Word in Vim or vi text editor

Search a word in Vim or vi text editor

To search using Vim/vi, for the current word:

  1. In normal mode, you can search forward or backward.
  2. One can search forward in vim/vi by pressing / and then typing your search pattern/word.
  3. To search backward in vi/vim by pressing ? and then typing your search pattern/word.
  4. Once word found in vim, you can press the n key to go directly to the next occurrence of the word in backwards. Press the N key to go directly to the opposite direction, i.e. forwards.

Searching for words in vim/vi

Let us open a file named /etc/passwd:
$ vi /etc/passwd
OR
$ vim /etc/passwd
Search for a word named “vivek” in forward direction:

  • Press ESC key
  • Type /vivek
  • Hit n to search forwards for the next occurrence of word named “vivek”. You can press N to search backwards.

How to search for a word in backwards in vim/vi

Let us open a file named demo.txt in the current directory:
$ vi demo.txt
OR
$ vim demo.txt
Search for a word named “bar” in backwards direction:

  • Press ESC key
  • Type ?bar
  • Hit N to search backwards for the next occurrence of word named “bar”. You can press n to search forwards.

How to search for the current word

Say you have a file named data.txt as follows displayed using the cat command:
$ cat data.txt
Sample outputs:

192.168.2.254 - default router
192.168.2.253 - wifi        
192.168.2.252 - wifi bridge 
192.168.2.254 - dns server
192.168.2.30  - backup server
192.168.2.254 - firewall
192.168.2.18  - vm server
192.168.2.203 - RHEL7
192.168.2.254 - dhcp server
192.168.2.200 - SUSE server
192.168.2.201 - FreeBSD nfs server

In normal mode, move the cursor to any word say 254. Press * to search forwards for the next occurrence of word 254, or press # to search backwards.

Search and open file from the CLI

The vi / vim text editor supports running any : command using the following syntax:

vi +commandHere fileName
vim +LineNumber fileName
vi +/searchTermHere fileName
vi +/LineNumberHere fileName
vim +/LineNumberHere fileName

To open file and go to function called main(), enter:

$ vim +/main filename-here

Next open file and go to line number 42, enter:

$ vim +42 fileName

How to find a Word in Vim or vi text editor

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