What I tend to use more often than :%! is to actually highlight a number of lines using V (visual line) and then apply an operation by simply typing : and then ! (vim automatically inserts the range specifier '<,'> for you), followed by your command. I typically do this with sort to arrange import sections in particular.
Yup - me too. And a quick look at :h ! will show you how to pass through motions and line ranges to an external program.
The possibilities are ... well, not endless. But there are a lot of them.
If you enjoy doing this sort of thing, you should really take Acme out for a spin.
Saying "the possibilities are finite!" is more accurate but less fun.
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