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Vim (Vi IMproved) is a clone of the popular vi editor for Unix. It is a text editor designed for speed and increased productivity, and is ubiquitous in most unix-based systems. It has numerous keybindings for speedy navigation to specific points in the file, and for fast editing.

vimtutor is a an excellent application that teaches you how to use Vim. It comes with the vim package during installation. You should be able to just run “vimtutor” on the command line to open this tutor. It will guide you through all the major features in vim.

Basics of navigating Vim

    vim <filename>   # Open <filename> in vim
    :help <topic>    # Open up built-in help docs about <topic> if any exists
    :q               # Quit vim
    :w               # Save current file
    :wq              # Save file and quit vim
    ZZ               # Save file and quit vim
    :q!              # Quit vim without saving file
                     # ! *forces* :q to execute, hence quiting vim without saving
    ZQ               # Quit vim without saving file
    :x               # Save file and quit vim, shorter version of :wq

    u                # Undo
    CTRL+R           # Redo

    h                # Move left one character
    j                # Move down one line
    k                # Move up one line
    l                # Move right one character

    Ctrl+B           # Move back one full screen
    Ctrl+F           # Move forward one full screen
    Ctrl+D           # Move forward 1/2 a screen
    Ctrl+U           # Move back 1/2 a screen

    # Moving within the line

    0                # Move to beginning of line
    $                # Move to end of line
    ^                # Move to first non-blank character in line

    # Searching in the text

    /word            # Highlights all occurrences of word after cursor
    ?word            # Highlights all occurrences of word before cursor
    n                # Moves cursor to next occurrence of word after search
    N                # Moves cursor to previous occerence of word

    :%s/foo/bar/g    # Change 'foo' to 'bar' on every line in the file
    :s/foo/bar/g     # Change 'foo' to 'bar' on the current line
    :%s/\n/\r/g      # Replace new line characters with new line characters

    # Jumping to characters

    f<character>     # Jump forward and land on <character>
    t<character>     # Jump forward and land right before <character>

    # For example,
    f<               # Jump forward and land on <
    t<               # Jump forward and land right before <

    # Moving by word

    w                # Move forward by one word
    b                # Move back by one word
    e                # Move to end of current word

    # Other characters for moving around

    gg               # Go to the top of the file
    G                # Go to the bottom of the file
    :NUM             # Go to line number NUM (NUM is any number)
    H                # Move to the top of the screen
    M                # Move to the middle of the screen
    L                # Move to the bottom of the screen

Help docs:

Vim has built in help documentation that can accessed with :help <topic>. For example :help navigation will pull up documentation about how to navigate your workspace!

:help can also be used without an option. This will bring up a default help dialog that aims to make getting started with vim more approachable!


Vim is based on the concept on modes.

    i                # Puts vim into insert mode, before the cursor position
    a                # Puts vim into insert mode, after the cursor position
    v                # Puts vim into visual mode
    :                # Puts vim into ex mode
    <esc>            # 'Escapes' from whichever mode you're in, into Command mode

    # Copying and pasting text

    y                # Yank whatever is selected
    yy               # Yank the current line
    d                # Delete whatever is selected
    dd               # Delete the current line
    p                # Paste the copied text after the current cursor position
    P                # Paste the copied text before the current cursor position
    x                # Deleting character under current cursor position

The ‘Grammar’ of vim

Vim can be thought of as a set of commands in a ‘Verb-Modifier-Noun’ format, where:

A few important examples of ‘Verbs’, ‘Modifiers’, and ‘Nouns’:

    # 'Verbs'

    d                # Delete
    c                # Change
    y                # Yank (copy)
    v                # Visually select

    # 'Modifiers'

    i                # Inside
    a                # Around
    NUM              # Number (NUM is any number)
    f                # Searches for something and lands on it
    t                # Searches for something and stops before it
    /                # Finds a string from cursor onwards
    ?                # Finds a string before cursor

    # 'Nouns'

    w                # Word
    s                # Sentence
    p                # Paragraph
    b                # Block

    # Sample 'sentences' or commands

    d2w              # Delete 2 words
    cis              # Change inside sentence
    yip              # Yank inside paragraph (copy the para you're in)
    ct<              # Change to open bracket
                     # Change the text from where you are to the next open bracket
    d$               # Delete till end of line

Some shortcuts and tricks

    <!--TODO: Add more!-->
    >                # Indent selection by one block
    <                # Dedent selection by one block
    :earlier 15m     # Reverts the document back to how it was 15 minutes ago
    :later 15m       # Reverse above command
    ddp              # Swap position of consecutive lines, dd then p
    .                # Repeat previous action
    :w !sudo tee %   # Save the current file as root
    :set syntax=c    # Set syntax highlighting to 'c'
    :sort            # Sort all lines
    :sort!           # Sort all lines in reverse
    :sort u          # Sort all lines and remove duplicates
    ~                # Toggle letter case of selected text
    u                # Selected text to lower case
    U                # Selected text to upper case
    J                # Join the current line with the next line

    # Fold text
    zf               # Create fold from selected text
    zo               # Open current fold
    zc               # Close current fold
    zR               # Open all folds
    zM               # Close all folds


Macros are basically recordable actions. When you start recording a macro, it records every action and command you use, until you stop recording. On invoking a macro, it applies the exact same sequence of actions and commands again on the text selection.

    qa               # Start recording a macro named 'a'
    q                # Stop recording
    @a               # Play back the macro

Configuring ~/.vimrc

The .vimrc file can be used to configure Vim on startup.

Here’s a sample ~/.vimrc file:

" Example ~/.vimrc
" 2015.10

" Required for vim to be iMproved
set nocompatible

" Determines filetype from name to allow intelligent auto-indenting, etc.
filetype indent plugin on

" Enable syntax highlighting
syntax on

" Better command-line completion
set wildmenu

" Use case insensitive search except when using capital letters
set ignorecase
set smartcase

" When opening a new line and no file-specific indenting is enabled,
" keep same indent as the line you're currently on
set autoindent

" Display line numbers on the left
set number

" Indentation options, change according to personal preference

" Number of visual spaces per TAB
set tabstop=4

" Number of spaces in TAB when editing
set softtabstop=4

" Number of spaces indented when reindent operations (>> and <<) are used
set shiftwidth=4

" Convert TABs to spaces
set expandtab

" Enable intelligent tabbing and spacing for indentation and alignment
set smarttab


Vim | Home

$ vimtutor

A vim Tutorial and Primer

What are the dark corners of Vim your mom never told you about? (Stack Overflow thread)

Arch Linux Wiki

Got a suggestion? A correction, perhaps? Open an Issue on the Github Repo, or make a pull request yourself!

Originally contributed by RadhikaG, and updated by 11 contributor(s).