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Vim buffer FAQ

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Revision as of 19:59, April 8, 2014 by Joe Sewell (Talk | contribs)

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created 2001 · complexity basic · author Yegappan · version 6.0


Vim provides various commands and options to support editing multiple buffers. This document covers some of the questions asked about using multiple buffers with Vim. You can get more detailed information about Vim buffer support using the :help windows.txt command in Vim. You can also use the help keywords mentioned in this document to read more about a particular command or option. To read more about a particular command or option use the ":help <helpkeyword>" command (replace helpkeyword with the command or option name).

See easier buffer switching if all you want is information on switching between buffers.

What is a Vim buffer?

A buffer is a file loaded into memory for editing. All opened files are associated with a buffer. There are also buffers not associated with any file.

:help windows-intro

How do I identify a buffer?

Vim buffers are identified using a name and a number. The name of the buffer is the name of the file associated with that buffer. The buffer number is a unique sequential number assigned by Vim. This buffer number will not change in a single Vim session.

:help buffers

How do I create a buffer?

When you open a file using any of the Vim commands, a buffer is automatically created. For example, if you use the ":edit file" command to edit a file, a new buffer is automatically created.

How do I add a new buffer for a file to the buffer list without opening the file?

You can add a new buffer for a file without opening it, using the ":badd" ex command. For example,

:badd f1.txt
:badd f2.txt

The above commands will add two new buffers for the files f1.txt and f2.txt to the buffer list.

:help :badd

How do I get a list of all the existing buffers?

You can get a list of all the existing buffers using the ":buffers" or ":ls" or ":files" ex command. This list is called the 'buffer list'.

To display all the buffers including unlisted buffers, use the ":buffers!" or ":ls!" or ":files!" ex command.

How do I delete a buffer?

You can delete a buffer using the ":bdelete" ex command. You can use either the buffer name or the buffer number to specify a buffer. For example,

:bdelete f1.txt
:bdelete 4

The above commands will delete the buffer named "f1.txt" and the fourth buffer in the buffer list. The ":bdelete" command will remove the buffer from the buffer list.

When a buffer is deleted, the buffer becomes an unlisted-buffer and is no longer included in the buffer list. But the buffer name and other information associated with the buffer is still remembered. To completely delete the buffer, use the ":bwipeout" ex command. This command will remove the buffer completely (i.e. the buffer will not become a unlisted buffer).

How do I delete multiple buffers?

You can delete multiple buffers in several ways:

  • Pass a range argument to the ":bdelete" command. For example, the following command deletes the buffers 3, 4 and 5.
:3,5bdelete
  • Pass multiple buffer names to the ":bdelete" command. For example, the following command deletes buffers buf1.txt, buf2.c and buf3.h.
:bdelete buf1.txt buf2.c buf3.h

In this example, after typing ":bdelete buf", you can press <Ctrl-A> to expand all the buffer names starting with 'buf'.

How do I remove a buffer from a window?

You can remove a buffer displayed in a window in several ways:

  1. Close the window or edit another buffer/file in that window.
  2. Use the ":bunload" ex command. This command will remove the buffer from the window and unload the buffer contents from memory. The buffer will not be removed from the buffer list.

:help :bunload

How do I edit an existing buffer from the buffer list?

You can edit or jump to a buffer in the buffer list in several ways:

  1. Use the ":buffer" ex command passing the name of an existing buffer or the buffer number. Note that buffer name completion can be used here by pressing the <Tab> key.
  2. You can enter the buffer number you want to jump/edit and press the Ctrl-^ key.
  3. Use the ":sbuffer" ex command passing the name of the buffer or the buffer number. Vim will split open a new window and open the specified buffer in that window.
  4. You can enter the buffer number you want to jump/edit and press the Ctrl-W ^ or Ctrl-W Ctrl-^ keys. This will open the specified buffer in a new window.

How do I browse through all the available buffers?

You can browse through the buffers in the buffer list in several ways:

  1. To jump to the first buffer in the buffer list, use the ":bfirst" or ":brewind" ex command.
  2. To jump to the first buffer in the buffer list in a new window, use the ":sbfirst" or ":sbrewind" ex command.
  3. To edit the next buffer in the buffer list, use the ":bnext" ex command., or the abbreviated ":bn"
  4. To open the next buffer in the buffer list in a new window, use the ":sbnext" ex command.
  5. To edit the previous buffer in the buffer list, use the ":bprevious" or ":bNext" ex command. or the abbreviated ":bp"
  6. To open the previous buffer in the buffer list in a new window, use the ":sbprevious" or ":sbNext" ex command.
  7. To open the last buffer in the buffer list, use the ":blast" ex command.
  8. To open the last buffer in the buffer list in a new window, use the ":sblast" ex command.

How do I open all the buffers in the buffer list?

You can open all the buffers present in the buffer list using the ":ball" or ":sball" ex commands.

How do I open all the loaded buffers?

You can open all the loaded buffers in the buffer list using the ":unhide" or ":sunhide" ex commands. Each buffer will be loaded in a separate new window.

How do I open the next modified buffer?

You can open the next or a specific modified buffer using the ":bmodified" ex command. You can open the next or a specific modified buffer in a new window using the ":sbmodified" ex command.

Is there a simpler way for using the buffers under gvim (GUI Vim)?

Yes, use the 'Buffers' menu to list all the buffers. You can select a buffer name to edit the buffer. You can also delete a buffer or browse the buffer list. Click the dashed line at the top of the menu to tear it off so you can always see a list of the buffers.

:help buffers-menu

Is there a Vim script that simplifies using buffers with Vim?

Yes, try the Buffer Explorer, minibufexpl or bufmru plugins.

Is it possible to save and restore the buffer list across Vim sessions?

Yes. To save and restore the buffer list across Vim session, include the '%' flag in the 'viminfo' option. Note that if Vim is invoked with a filename argument, then the buffer list will not be restored from the last session. To use buffer lists across sessions, invoke Vim without passing filename arguments.

We can save different buffer list for different folders, by setting a local 'viminfo' file.

http://www.vim.org/scripts/script.php?script_id=441

The point is to overwrite the global setting by calling local setting after the 'viminfo' setting, for example.

set viminfo='1025,f1,%1024
call SetLocalOptions(".")


How do I remove all the entries from the buffer list?

You can remove all the entries in the buffer list by starting Vim with a file argument. You can also manually remove all the buffers using the ":bdelete" ex command.

What is a hidden buffer?

A hidden buffer is a buffer with some unsaved modifications and is not displayed in a window. Hidden buffers are useful, if you want to edit multiple buffers without saving the modifications made to a buffer while loading other buffers.

How do I load buffers in a window, which currently has a buffer with unsaved modifications?

By setting the option 'hidden', you can load a buffer in a window that currently has a modified buffer. Vim will remember your modifications to the buffer. When you quit Vim, you will be asked to save the modified buffers. It is important to note that, if you have the 'hidden' option set, and you quit Vim forcibly, for example using ":quit!", then you will lose all your modifications to the hidden buffers.

:help 'hidden'

Is it possible to unload or delete a buffer when it becomes hidden?

By setting the 'bufhidden' option to either 'hide' or 'unload' or 'delete', you can control what happens to a buffer when it becomes hidden. When 'bufhidden' is set to 'delete', the buffer is deleted when it becomes hidden. When 'bufhidden' is set to 'unload', the buffer is unloaded when it becomes hidden. When 'bufhidden' is set to 'hide', the buffer is hidden.

:help 'bufhidden'

How do I execute a command on all the buffers in the buffer list?

You can use the ":bufdo" ex command to execute an ex command on all the buffers in the buffer list.

:help :bufdo

When I open an existing buffer from the buffer list, if the buffer is already displayed in one of the existing windows, I want Vim to jump to that window instead of creating a new window for this buffer. How do I do this?

When opening a buffer using one of the split open buffer commands (:sbuffer, :sbnext), Vim will open the specified buffer in a new window. If the buffer is already opened in one of the existing windows, then you will have two windows containing the same buffer. You can change this behavior by setting the 'switchbuf' option to 'useopen'. With this setting, if a buffer is already opened in one of the windows, Vim will jump to that window, instead of creating a new window.

:help 'switchbuf'

What information is stored as part of a buffer?

Every buffer in the buffer list contains information about the last cursor position, marks, jump list, etc.

What is the difference between deleting a buffer and unloading a buffer?

When a buffer is unloaded, it is not removed from the buffer list. Only the file contents associated with the buffer are removed from memory. When a buffer is deleted, it is unloaded and removed from the buffer list. A deleted buffer becomes an 'unlisted' buffer.

Is it possible to configure Vim, by setting some option, to re-use the number of a deleted buffer for a new buffer?

No. Vim will not re-use the buffer number of a deleted buffer for a new buffer. Vim will always assign the next sequential number for a new buffer. The buffer number assignment is implemented this way, so that you can always jump to a buffer using the same buffer number. One method to achieve buffer number reordering is to restart Vim. If you restart Vim, it will re-assign numbers sequentially to all the buffers in the buffer list (assuming you have properly set 'viminfo' to save and restore the buffer list across Vim sessions).

:help buffers

What options do I need to set for a scratch (temporary) buffer?

You can set the following options to create a scratch (temporary) buffer:

:set buftype=nofile
:set bufhidden=hide
:setlocal noswapfile

This will create a buffer which is not associated with a file, which does not have an associated swap file and will be hidden when removed from a window.

Also you can use scratch.vim for creating a scratch buffer.

How do I prevent a buffer from being added to the buffer list?

You can prevent a buffer from being added to the buffer list by resetting the 'buflisted' option.

:set nobuflisted

:help 'buflisted'

How do I determine whether a buffer is modified or not?

There are several ways to find out whether a buffer is modified or not. The simplest way is to look at the status line or the title bar. If the displayed string contains a '+' character, then the buffer is modified. Another way is to check whether the 'modified' option is set or not. If 'modified' is set, then the buffer is modified. To check the value of modified, use

:set modified?

You can also explicitly set the 'modified' option to mark the buffer as modified like this:

:set modified

:help 'modified'

How can I prevent modifications to a buffer?

You can prevent any modification to a buffer by re-setting the 'modifiable' option. To reset this option, use

:set nomodifiable

To again allow modifications to the buffer, use:

:set modifiable

:help 'modifiable'

How do I set options specific to the current buffer?

You can set Vim options which are specific to a buffer using the "setlocal" command. For example,

:setlocal textwidth=70

This will set the 'textwidth' option to 70 only for the current buffer. All other buffers will have the default or the previous 'textwidth' value.

How do I define mappings specific to the current buffer?

You can define mappings specific to the current buffer by using the keyword "<buffer>" in the map command. For example,

:map <buffer> ,w /[.,;]<CR>

:help map-local

How do I define abbreviations specific to the current buffer?

You can define abbreviations specific to the current buffer by using the keyword "<buffer>" in the :abbreviate command. For example,

:abb <buffer> FF for (i = 0; i < ; ++i)

:help abbreviate-local

Comments

How does one execute a command in a new buffer? For example, execute :tj from the function you're on, in a new buffer window? This is very useful if you don't want to close the buffer you're on, but want to open a new buffer where the code is located.

You're confusing the terminology. What you're really asking for is not a new buffer, but a new window. You can get a new window in many ways. See :help opening-window for the basic commands. In addition, there are many commands (like :tj) that also have a duplicate command that automatically splits the window first (like :stj). --Fritzophrenic 19:36, September 3, 2010 (UTC)

How can one take all open buffers and merge content into a single Buffer? I will try a small script to walk through the bufferlist yank'ing the data to a single buffer but if anyone has a neater way... then thanks in advance. --Chumbawumba69 06:22, October 5, 2011 (UTC) (sorry if answered but could not find)

I don't think such an answer would belong in an FAQ, but you can probably accomplish this using the Bufdo command, combined with :yank. --Fritzophrenic 17:39, October 5, 2011 (UTC)
Try uppercase register to keep appending conent like "Ayy and then put "ap. Try also articles on the wiki about the global command Power_of_g

Regarding the section on "creating" a scratch buffer, do those commands actually create a buffer, or do they simply transform an existing buffer into a scratch buffer? (I believe it's the latter.) --Joe Sewell (talk) 19:59, April 8, 2014 (UTC)

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