Convert Rows into Columns in VIM

Are you struggling to format text neatly into rows and columns while using Vim for text editing? Whether you’re working with a .rpt or .txt file, achieving a structured layout akin to spreadsheet software can seem daunting at first. However, fear not, as there are efficient ways to organize your content into rows and columns within Vim.

The Challenge

When it comes to organizing text, particularly for automation purposes or enhancing readability, a structured layout with clear rows and columns is often preferred. This format facilitates easier data manipulation and interpretation, similar to what you’d find in spreadsheet applications like Microsoft Excel.

<2,$!column -t />

The Solution

In Vim, achieving a structured layout resembling rows and columns involves leveraging the column command. Here’s how you can do it:

    1. Using column -t: If you’re on a Linux system, the column command comes in handy. By default, it utilizes spaces as column separators. You can either replace the spaces between words in the same column on the first row with underscores or another character, or you can specify a different column separator and then use the -s flag with column.
    2. Vim Filter Command: Vim allows you to call external commands as filters, enabling you to process specified lines of text. For instance, you can utilize the :2,$!column -t command within Vim. This command replaces content from the second line to the end with the output of column, which treats those lines as input. This approach effectively mimics the structured rows and columns desired, resembling formats found in spreadsheet applications.

Implementation Steps

To implement this solution effectively, follow these steps:

  1. Open your desired file in Vim (vim filename).
  2. Navigate to the line where you want to start formatting the text into rows and columns.
  3. Execute the filter command :2,$!column -t to apply the column command to the specified lines.
  4. Voila! Your text should now be neatly organized into rows and columns, enhancing readability and facilitating further data processing or automation tasks.


With the right tools and commands at your disposal, organizing text into structured rows and columns within Vim becomes a manageable task. By leveraging the column command and Vim’s filter functionality, you can achieve a layout akin to spreadsheet formats, enhancing the clarity and usability of your text-based data. So go ahead, streamline your text editing workflow in Vim and unlock the power of structured content organization.    

How to Convert Rows into Columns in Vim



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