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Where X=vim

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.

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
    :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

    # 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 8 contributor(s).