You can execute external commands from within Vim. Here are some examples:

  • :!ls execute the given shell command and display output
    • the results are displayed as part of an expanded Command-line area, doesn't change contents of the file
  • :.!date replace the current line with the output of the given command
    • pressing !! in Normal mode will also result in :.!
    • ! waits for motion similar to d and y commands, !G will give :.,$!
  • :%!sort sort all the lines
    • recall that % is a shortcut for the range 1,$
    • note that this executes an external command, not the built-in :sort command
  • :3,8!sort sort only lines 3 to 8
  • :r!date insert output of the given command below the current line
  • :r report.log insert contents of the given file below the current line
    • Note that ! is not used here since there is no shell command
  • :.!grep '^Help ' % replace the current line with all the lines starting with Help in the current file
    • % here refers to current file contents
  • :sh open a shell session within Vim
    • use exit command to quit the session

info See :h :!, :h :sh and :h :r for more details.

Video demo:

info See also my Vim Reference Guide and curated list of resources for Vim.