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created 2004 · complexity intermediate · author Chris X Edwards · version 6.0

This tip shows how to underline text document headings with, for example, a dashed line.

Using a mapping[]

Starting with a line of text like:

A Very Important Tip!

the mapping below inserts a row of dashes like this:

A Very Important Tip!

This is useful to highlight headings. Add the following to your vimrc:

" Underline the current line with dashes in normal mode
nnoremap <F5> yyp<c-v>$r-

" Underline the current line with dashes in insert mode
inoremap <F5> <Esc>yyp<c-v>$r-A

Of course you can use other characters instead of -, for example, = or _.

In case you want to get a line above and below the heading, do this in normal mode:


Using substitute[]

You can use the global and substitute commands (:help :g, :help :s) to underline all headings matching a pattern. For example, the following adds a row of dashes under each line that starts with "Chapter":


It works by finding each matching line, then copying it (:help :t), then substituting each character (.) in the line.

Using a function[]

The following code (for your vimrc) defines a user command to underline the current line. Examples:

:Underline gives underlining like -------------- (default).
:Underline = gives underlining like ==============.
:Underline -= gives underlining like -=-=-=-=-=-=-=.
:Underline ~+- gives underlining like ~+-~+-~+-~+-~+-~+-.
function! s:Underline(chars)
  let chars = empty(a:chars) ? '-' : a:chars
  let nr_columns = virtcol('$') - 1
  let uline = repeat(chars, (nr_columns / len(chars)) + 1)
  put =strpart(uline, 0, nr_columns)
command! -nargs=? Underline call s:Underline(<q-args>)

Related plugins[]

As an alternative, you could use a plugin:

  • extline : Plugin for extending lines (e.g., underlined titles)

See also[]


yypVr- also works well. Great tip for Markdown and WikiTex users. Linktohack 15:37, February 3, 2012 (UTC)

Thanks. There is a subtle feature about the method in the tip. If you have the default 'virtualedit' setting (""), and if there is a tab in the line, using Vr- replaces each tab with a single dash, while the method in the tip uses the correct number of dashes depending on the width of the tab. JohnBeckett 06:50, February 4, 2012 (UTC)