created 2008 · complexity basic · author Metacosm · version 7.0
To be rewarded by the power of Vim, you will need to learn to properly drive it. Following are some simple tutorial guides for getting started. Please ignore anyone who provides advice on how to configure Vim to operate like Notepad!
Vim ships with its own tutorial. We highly recommended it! Follow the steps at :help tutor. If you're in a hurry, you can probably get by with some basic commands, but you should definitely do the tutorial when you have about a half hour you can devote to it. Time spent will more than make up for itself with the productivity increase it will give you.
If you need more guided tutorials after completing the built-in one, there are Vim tutorials created by other users that you may want to try.
By default, when Vim starts, you cannot simply type to enter text because Vim starts in normal mode (sometimes called command mode). While confusing for new users, normal mode provides the power of Vim because typing a few keys can perform many useful functions.
In normal mode, you can enter commands, for example, to copy, delete or indent text. You return to normal mode from other modes by pressing the Esc key.
You can enter insert mode from normal mode by pressing the
i key. Now, text you type will be inserted.
You can enter visual mode from normal mode by pressing the
v key. That starts a visual selection.
There are several more ways to enter insert mode, depending on where you want to insert the text:
iinsert at current location
ainsert after current location (append)
Iinsert AT START of current line
Ainsert AFTER END of current line
oinsert line below current line (open)
Oinsert line ABOVE current line
sdelete character under cursor and start inserting in its place (substitute text)
Sdelete all text on line and start inserting in its place (substitute line)
cwdelete to the end of current word and start inserting in its place (any movement command can be substituted for
ccsame as S (change line)
Cdelete from the cursor to the end of line and start inserting at the cursor position
For example, starting in normal mode, if you press
A then type "hello" and press Esc, you will append "hello" to the end of the current line. If you move to another line and press
. you will append "hello" to that line as well (
. repeats the last operation). If you had used
I (instead of
A), the "hello" would have been inserted at the start of the line, and pressing
. would repeat that operation.
Saving and quitting
Save the current file by entering
:w (which always writes the file even if it has not changed), or
:update (which only writes the file if it has changed). That is, press Esc to enter normal mode if necessary, then press the
: key, then the
w key, then press Enter. If Vim indicates a problem (for example, the file was flagged as read-only in Vim, or the file has been modified by another program since you began editing), you can use
:w! to force Vim to write the file anyway.
If you are not editing an existing file (for example if you launched Vim with no arguments), you will need to provide a file name when you save. You can do this with
:w filename or
:saveas filename, for example,
After saving your changes, you can quit Vim with
:q. Or the saving and quitting can be combined into one operation with
If you want to discard any changes, enter
:q! to quit Vim without saving.
It is possible to have more than one file open in Vim, and there are commands for saving or quitting when working with multiple files (see :help window-exit):
|write all changed files (save all changes)|
|exit all (save all changes and close Vim)|
|quit all (close Vim, but not if there are unsaved changes)|
|quit all (close Vim without saving—discard any changes)|
The word "file" was used above, although the correct term is "buffer". A buffer is an area used by Vim to store a collection of text. Usually, a buffer has an associated file: to start, a buffer is filled by reading its file, and the buffer can be saved by writing to its file. A file is read into a buffer when you start Vim with a file name argument (for example,
vim myfile.txt, or when you issue the
:e filename (edit) command within Vim.
However, it is easy to have buffers that are not associated with a file. Examples are starting Vim with no argument (which gives an empty buffer with no file name), or entering
:new to create a new buffer within Vim.
Movement and more
- Hands on the home row asdf hjkl.
- hjkl move in normal mode: h is left and moves left; l is right and moves right; j looks like a down arrow and moves down; k moves up.
- w moves one word forward; 3w moves three words forward; b moves one word backward; 3b moves three words backwards.
- gg moves to first line, G moves to last line, 123G moves to line number 123.
- More moving: 8k moves eight lines up, 5j moves five lines down, 4l moves four characters right, 23h moves 23 characters left.
- : opens command line to enter "ex" commands :help ex-cmd-index
- ! after an ex command ignores warnings from many commands, or changes the behavior subtly for others.
- Objects and actions: at beginning of word: d2w (action)(times)(object) (delete)(2)(words forward) this deletes including the trailing space; use de to delete to end of word (leaving the trailing space).
- d2b (delete)(2)(words backward).
- hjkl are also objects! example: d3l (delete)(3)(left), for hl we count individual characters, not words, for jk we count individual lines, d3k delete 4 lines up (3 plus current).
- cw (change)(word), c3w (change)(3)(words). "Change" means delete the current text and enter insert mode it its place.
- cb (change)(word backward), c3b (change)(3)(words backwards).
- Why c and d? Use cw to delete word and enter insert mode (so you can type a new word finishing with Esc). Use dw to delete word, staying in normal mode.
- Use u to undo and Ctrl-r to redo, multiple times.
- Autocompletion: "whatchamacallit" need to type it again? Type wh then press Ctrl-p to find the previous word that starts with "wh". Ctrl-p and Ctrl-n cycle through matches in previous and next order.
- Visual mode: v3w (visual select)(3)(words); change selection with b and hjkl*.
- After selecting: y will "yank" (copy); p will "put" (paste) at a new location (after the cursor; use P for before the cursor). Use y in visual mode and p in normal mode.
- Convenience commands: dd delete current line; yy yank current line.
- Searching: /regularexpression to search forward, ?regularexpression search backward; press n for next hit, or N for previous.
- As before we can combine objects for more: y/) will yank everything to NEXT parens (or whatever you search for) while y?) will yank everything up to the PREVIOUS parens.
Find and till
It's rewarding to become familiar with the 'find' and 'till' commands.
- Jump to a character in the same line: fx to find the next 'x' in the line, and Fx to find the previous one.
- 'Till' is similar: tC to jump till just before the next 'C' in the line, and TC to jump till just after the previous one.
- Use , and ; to jump to the previous and next occurrence of the character found with t, T, f, or F.
- In the above, x is any character, including Tab (press f then Tab to jump to the next Tab on the current line).
Magic happens when you combine the motions find and till with operators:
- ctx change all text till the next 'x' (x is any character; x is not changed).
- cfx same, but include the 'x'.
- You are now in insert mode. Type the replacement text, then press Esc.
- dtx delete all text till the next 'x'.
- dfx same, but include the 'x'.
- Want to do it again? Save a keystroke with d; or save two with . (see repeat).
- Example: You are at the start of a line:
This is an example (and here is more) and so on (on one line).
- Type dt( to delete from the cursor till '(', with result:
(and here is more) and so on (on one line).
- Type . to repeat, with result:
(on one line).
Even though the above does not allude to it, Vim does support mouse clicks, arrow keys, and even menus — as a kind of afterthoughts, not part of Vim's "basic" command set. — Tonymec 07:28, 25 May 2009 (UTC)
- Mention other modes (command-line, select, replace, blockwise/linewise visual)? This may be too much info, but maybe at least command-line mode.
- "Using the mouse" section. Here's where select mode is probably most useful. Also mention menus. Be sure to emphasize non-mouse stuff though.
- Maybe a section about how to open split-windows, just above #Saving and quitting which says how to close them?
- I think that the proposed section about opening split windows is probably too much info for this tip, we should link elsewhere. Same goes for multiple buffers. Probably we need a "see also" section with sub-sections on editing multiple files, etc. The same might be applicable to the "other modes" info. Probably we need a new tip about all Vim's various modes, if we don't have one already. Or just a :help link if there is a suitable place to see info about all the different modes. --Fritzophrenic 14:35, August 19, 2010 (UTC)