vim-sandwich not surround.vim

Time and time again people praise surround.vim for what it can do. I don’t think this is out of any sort of evangelism, just that they’re unaware of the alternatives offered ¹.

vim-sandwich is our alternative in this case. It boasts the feature set of surround.vim and more!

Why vim-sandwich?

1) Can operate on all text-objects and motions

Whereas surround.vim can operate on a few motions (w, W, s) on targets, vim-sandwich correctly operates on the entire vim vocabulary and can also take a count. Doing sa2}" will surround the next two paragraphs in double quotes for example.

This is by far the biggest advantage vim-sandwich has over surround.vim. Read the docs (:help sandwich.txt) or better yet, install it and see for yourself.

2) Well tested

Seriously, look at the amount of tests this thing has. Regressions in code are very hard to make happen in well tested code.

3) Is repeatable with ‘.’ without an extra plugin

surround.vim is repeatable however it relies on tpope’s repeat.vim plugin being installed, vim-sandwich has built-in support for repeatability.

4) Has a generic ‘b’ mapping, to target the outer block

Instead of being specific and having to say sr'" to replace single quotes with double quotes, we can use b which means “the outer block”. sr'" then becomes srb". I know it doesn’t seem like a big deal but you’ll quickly find this slipping into your day-to-day use of vim-sandwich. surround.vim has something similar though not as generic, b stands for (, B, stands for {.

5) Does HTML/XML tags in a nice way

The t command after a motion or text object tells vim-sandwich that you want to add a tag. At that point, it will bring a prompt up and you can enter whatever you want.

To surround a paragraph in p tags you would do sa}tp (and of course you could delete these with sdb).

You can also add HTML attributes. For example if we have:

Some text here

and do (assuming the cursor is at beginning of the line)


then we get

<div class="body" id="main-content">Some text here</div>

6) Visual feedback

When using vim-sandwich, there is unobtrusive visual feedback every step of the way. sr'" will highlight the single quotes until you have pressed the replacement character. sa}tp will highlight the paragraph ({) until you have added in the rest of your command. Having this available makes me much less clumsy and more confident in what I’m doing.

7) Your own surroundings

If that’s not enough, vim-sandwich boasts a thing called ‘recipes’ which are your own surroundings that you can write in vimscript. I’ve never dug this far in, my needs are quite basic but some users may find this useful.

8) A whole lot more

There’s a load of other stuff in the documentation I’ve omitted that I recommend reading (:help sandwich.txt).

Why surround.vim?

After all that, why should you stick with surround?

One of the biggest issues with vim-sandwich is that it messes with the s substitute binding, I never used this anyway so I don’t miss it. Apart from that, I would say surround.vim has more intuitive mappings but the author of vim-sandwich has made this possible anyway.

A syntax comparison

Changing ‘ to “

# surround.vim

# vim-sandwich

Surrounding something with tags

# surround.vim

# vim-sandwich

Deleting surrounding quotes

# surround.vim

# vim-sandwich

You failed to mention [X] and that surround.vim can do [Y]

Cool, bring it up in this thread and I’ll update this section.

It looks cool, but a little intimidating with all those options (yes I realise what subreddit I’m in). Just tried it, don’t dig the highlighting thingy and it doesn’t seem to be optional. I’ll try to hack it off.

You can turn it off with:

operator#sandwich#set('all', 'all', 'highlight', 0)

It mentions it messes with the s key for substitute but vim-sneak also uses s and I personally couldn’t make that trade.

In your case you have two options:

1) vim-sneak allows you to specify a different mapping

2) vim-sandwich also allows different mappings. Have a read of the docs. They will allow you to use surround.vim mappings but also leverage the features of vim-sandwich

I don’t use it because it substitutes some of vim’s default motions. I don’t like that kind of plugin.

In that case you can use vim-sandwich with surround.vim keymappings. add the following line to your vimrc:

runtime macros/sandwich/keymap/surround.vim

vim-sandwich looks great, and I’d be curious to try it, but it doesn’t seem to support one particular feature of vim-surround that I use quite often: With vim-surround, you can change hello to {hello} with csiw}, or change it to { hello } with csiw{. I could be wrong about vim-sandwich not supporting this, but I couldn’t find anything about it in the repo.

User /u/vimdiesel gave this link which addresses the issue.

Surround does that, too [HTML/XML tags in a nice way], and in a more semantic way, IMO: ysip<p<CR>, optionally letting you add attributes and stuff.

You can add HTML attributes through vim-sandwich too, for example

If we have:

Some text here

and do (assuming the cursor is at beginning of the line)


then we get

<div class="body" id="main-content">Some text here</div>

Just because it’s the most popular doesn’t mean it’s the best choice

There are many great smaller vim plugins around and unfortunately, you really have to search for them. A lot of the time they trump the competition but the competition got there first and/or already have a name for themselves.

I’d always suggest looking around for the plugin you want instead of settling on the plugin that’s offered, it’s not always the best choice.

References & Footnotes



¹ I too have felt the pain of the tpope monopoly when dadbod crushed my sql plugin’s popularity :(