Tip 907 Printable Monobook Previous Next

created 2005 · complexity basic · author Siegfried Bublitz · version 5.7

I keep some of my passwords in a Vim encrypted file (see :help :X). The encryption is not strong, but it may be sufficient for your requirements.

I can open the file in front of other people because the file has a modeline that enables folding so the passwords are hidden. For example, opening the file may show:

my pc1
+-- 3 lines mylogin1

my pc2
+-- 3 lines mylogin2

The file is organized in blocks separated by blank lines. In each block, all but the first line are indented, for example:

my pc1

my pc2

The first line of the file contains the following modeline:

vi: noswapfile bufhidden=wipe tw=0 fdm=expr foldexpr=getline(v\:lnum)=~'^\\s\\|^$'


  • noswapfile keeps others from sniffing in the swapfile.
  • bufhidden=wipe erases all session information when the file is left.
  • The fold commands fold as described above.


Home-grown password management systems can easily give you a false sense of security. You might be better off with dedicated software, for example Password Safe.

You could use foldmethod=indent instead.

Some other settings may help for privacy:

set nobackup
set nowritebackup
set viminfo=

Consider using foldclose=all so that an open fold will automatically close after you leave it.

For ~/.fetchmailrc I have done this to hide the passwords when editing in Vim.

# vim: autoindent nobackup nowritebackup noswapfile bufhidden=wipe foldmethod=indent fdo=insert fcl=all fdl=1
 proto pop3
 auth password
 user "xxxxxxxxx"
 password "xxxxxxxx"
 nofetchall nokeep norewrite fetchlimit 100

fdo=insert will make it harder to accidentally open the fold with anything other than zo or i.

fdl=1 will fold only the auth, user and password lines.

fcl=all will autoclose the folds on and deeper than the fdl parameter when leaving them.

The user and password lines will be folded once extra and seperating the user and password lines on two lines will make the fold not display the password line in "preview".

Keeping modelines in an encrypted file gives a cracker a known plaintext string to look for when trying to brute force the encryption.

But, you can put something like this in your vimrc to avoid the modelines (assuming 'head' is available on your system):

autocmd BufReadPre * if system("head -c 9 " . expand("<afile>")) == "VimCrypt~" | call SetupEncryption() | endif
function SetupEncryption()
  " disable the swap file
  setlocal noswapfile
  " disable viminfo (global)
  set viminfo=
  " enable folding
  call SetupFolding()
  " auto-close folds
  set foldlevel=0
  set foldclose=all
  " make it harder to open folds by accident
  set foldopen=""
  " move cursor over word and press 'e' to obfuscate/unobfuscate it
  noremap e g?iw

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