Vim Commands

130+ Essential Vim Commands

Since the 1970’s, Vi and its successor Vim have been included by default on many operating systems, including almost all GNU/Linux distributions. Vim is free and open-source and is one of the most popular code editors.

Vim is a modal text editor, which means that it has a mode for writing text, a mode for running commands, etc. Vim has a total of 12 different editing modes. The three main modes are:

  • Command mode (also sometimes reffered to as Normal mode) is where you can run commands. This is the default mode in which Vim starts up.
  • Insert mode is the mode where you insert/write your text.
  • Visual mode is where you visually select a bunch of text so that you can run a command/operation only on that part of the text.

Basic Vim Commands

Let’s start with an easy set of Vim commands to open, save, and exit Vim.

:e filenameOpen filename for edition
:wSave file
:qExit Vim
:q!Quit without saving
:xWrite file (if changes has been made) and exit
:sav filenameSaves file as filename
.Repeats the last change made in normal mode

Moving in the File

While in command mode, the following set of commands will allow you to easily move the cursor in the file, jump to a particular line number, or set the cursor position at the beginning of the file.

k or Up Arrowmove the cursor position up one line
j or Down Arrowmove the cursor down one line
emove the cursor to the end of the word
bmove the cursor to the begining of the word
0move the cursor to the begining of the line
Gmove the cursor to the end of the file
ggmove the cursor to the begining of the file
Lmove the cursor to the bottom of the screen
:59move cursor to line number 59. Replace 59 by the desired line number.
20|move cursor to column 20.
%Move cursor to matching parenthesis
[[Jump to function start
[{Jump to block start

Cut, Copy & Paste

Here are some basic Vim commands to cut, copy and paste portions of text. All the commands below has to be ran in command mode.

yCopy the selected text to clipboard
pPaste clipboard contents
ddCut current line
yyCopy current line
y$Copy to end of line
DCut to end of line

Search

In command mode, you can easily search for any string within a file. This is extremely useful for developers and sysadmins alike.

/wordSearch word from top to bottom
?wordSearch word from bottom to top
*Search the word under cursor
/\cstringSearch STRING or string, case insensitive
/jo[ha]nSearch john or joan
/\< theSearch the, theatre or then
/the\>Search the or breathe
/fred\|joeSearch fred or joe
/\<\d\d\d\d\>Search exactly 4 digits
/^\n\{3}Find 3 empty lines
:bufdo /searchstr/Search in all open files
bufdo %s/something/somethingelse/gSearch something in all the open buffers and replace it with somethingelse

Replace

Vim command line tool is extremely useful to replace many occurences of a string by another within a file. Using more advanced commands, there are a lot of search and replace options available.

:%s/old/new/gReplace all occurences of old by new in file
:%s/onward/forward/giReplace onward by forward, case unsensitive
:%s/old/new/gcReplace all occurences with confirmation
:%s/^/hello/gReplace the begining of each line by hello
:%s/$/Harry/gReplace the end of each line by Harry
:%s/onward/forward/giReplace onward by forward, case unsensitive
:%s/ *$//gDelete all white spaces
:g/string/dDelete all lines containing string
:v/string/dDelete all lines containing which didn’t contain string
:s/Bill/Steve/Replace the first occurence of Bill by Steve in current line
:s/Bill/Steve/gReplace Bill by Steve in current line
:%s/Bill/Steve/gReplace Bill by Steve in all the file
:%s/^M//gDelete DOS carriage returns (^M)
:%s/\r/\r/gTransform DOS carriage returns in returns
:%s#<[^>]\+>##gDelete HTML tags but keeps text
:%s/^\(.*\)\n\1$/\1/Delete lines which appears twice
Ctrl+aIncrement number under the cursor
Ctrl+xDecrement number under cursor
ggVGg?Change text to Rot13

Case

Vim has some powerful commands to modify the case of text. All the commands below have to be run in command mode.

VuLowercase line
VUUppercase line
g~~Invert case
vEUSwitch word to uppercase
vE~Modify word case
ggguGSet all text to lowercase
gggUGSet all text to uppercase
:set ignorecaseIgnore case in searches
:set smartcaseIgnore case in searches excepted if an uppercase letter is used
:%s/\<./\u&/gSets first letter of each word to uppercase
:%s/\<./\l&/gSets first letter of each word to lowercase
:%s/.*/\u&Sets first letter of each line to uppercase
:%s/.*/\l&Sets first letter of each line to lowercase

Read and Write Files

Vim is clearly one of the most powerful text editors available. This section shows how you can manipulate files, insert the content of a file into another, and export portions of a file into a new file.

:1,10 w outfileSaves lines 1 to 10 in outfile
:1,10 w >> outfileAppends lines 1 to 10 to outfile
:r infileInsert the content of infile
:23r infileInsert the content of infile under line 23

File Explorer

Vim features a built in file explorer, which allows you to explorer the content of your server without exiting the text editor.

:e .Open integrated file explorer
:SexSplit window and open integrated file explorer
:Sex!Same as :Sex but split window vertically
:browse eGraphical file explorer
:lsList buffers
:cd ..Move to parent directory
:argsList files
:args *.phpOpen file list
:grep expression *.phpReturns a list of .php files contening expression
gfOpen file name under cursor

Interact With Unix

Vim is installed by default on most Unix based operating systems, including Mac OS and most GNU/Linux distros. It therefore feature various commands that allows you to interact with the OS.

:!pwdExecute the pwd unix command, then returns to Vi
!!pwdExecute the pwd unix command and insert output in file
:shTemporary returns to Unix
$exitRetourns to Vi

Alignment

In command mode, you can quickly and easily align a file’s lines for better clarity.

:%!fmtAlign all lines
!}fmtAlign all lines at the current position
5!!fmtAlign the next 5 lines

Tabs and Windows

One of my favorite Vim options is the ability to use tabs to edit various files at the same time. The following Vim commands will let you open, close, and organize your tabs for better productivity.

:tabnewCreates a new tab
gtShow next tab
:tabfirstShow first tab
:tablastShow last tab
:tabm n(position)Rearrange tabs
:tabdo %s/foo/bar/gExecute a command in all tabs
:tab ballPuts all open files in tabs
:new abc.txtEdit abc.txt in new window

Window Spliting

Vim allows you to split the screen horizontally or vertically, so you can edit many files at once using the insert mode.

:e filenameEdit filename in current window
:split filenameSplit the window and open filename
ctrl-w up arrowPuts cursor in top window
ctrl-w ctrl-wPuts cursor in next window
ctrl-w_Maximize current window vertically
ctrl-w|Maximize current window horizontally
ctrl-w=Gives the same size to all windows
10 ctrl-w+Add 10 lines to current window
:vsplit fileSplit window vertically
:sview fileSame as :split in readonly mode
:hideClose current window
:­nlyClose all windows, excepted current
:b 2Open #2 in this window

Auto-Completion

Vim can use external dictionaries to provide auto-completion. This can be a real time saver, so pay attention to the commands below if you want to speed up your workflow.

Ctrl+n Ctrl+p (To be used in insert mode)Complete word
Ctrl+x Ctrl+lComplete line
:set dictionary=dictDefine dict as a dictionnary
Ctrl+x Ctrl+kComplete with dictionnary

Marks

When editing large files, it can be tricky to move in the file and remember important sections. Happilly, Vim allows its users to create marks that can easily be accessed later. No need to remember a dozen of line numbers anymore!

m {a-z}Marks current position as {a-z}
' {a-z}Move to position {a-z}
''Move to previous position

Abbreviations

This little known trick lets you define abbreviations that can be reused later and as many times as needed.

:ab mail mail@provider.orgDefine mail as abbreviation of mail@provider.org

Text Indentation

Text indentation is vital when it comes to code readability. Luckily, Vim has a set of commands for the text editor to indent your lines in a clear and readable manner.

:set autoindentTurn on auto-indent
:set smartindentTurn on intelligent auto-indent
:set shiftwidth=4Defines 4 spaces as indent size
ctrl-t, ctrl-dIndent/un-indent in insert mode
>>Indent
<<Un-indent
=%Indent the code between parenthesis
1GVG=Indent the whole file

Frequently Asked Questions

Vim basic commands

How do I Type Commands in Vim?

To type commands, you have to first activate Vim’s command mode. To do so, press the Esc key of your keyboard. You can then type any command of your choice.

How do I Start Typing Text in Vim?

Vim must be in insert mode for you to type text. Simply press the i key when in command mode to enter the insert mode.

On Which Hosting Plans Can You Use Vim?

Basically any Linux hosting will have Vim installed on the server. As long as you are able to access your server via SSH, you’ll be able to use Vim. Please refer to our best web hosting for developers guide to find out which hosts provide a SSH access.

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