Quick Guide to Vim Editor

Here is a quick guide to learn and use the Vim editor.

Basically, you always switch between two modes in Vim, which are command mode and insert mode.
In command mode, you move around the file, delete text, or execute other commands.
In insert mode, you insert and edit text.

During start, Vim is always at command mode.
To change from command mode to insert mode, press i/I/a/A/o/O (refer table below).
To change from insert mode to command mode, press Esc (escape key).

Insert mode

To enter insert mode, use any of the following commands.

Key Action
a Append text following current cursor position
A Append text to the end of current line
i Insert text before the current cursor position
I Insert text at the beginning of the cursor line
o Open up a new line following the current line and add text there
O Open up a new line in front of the current line and add text there

In insert mode, you can type and edit text as you would in a graphical text editor.

To create a page break, press CTRL+L.


Command mode

These are the commands that are used in the command mode.

Key Action
  Cursor Movement Commands
h Moves the cursor one character to the left
l Moves the cursor one character to the right
k Moves the cursor up one line
j Moves the cursor down one line
nG or :n Cursor goes to the specified (n) line. (eg: 10G goes to line 10)
^F (Ctrl F) Forward screenful
^B Backward screenful
^f One page forward
^b One page backward
^U Up half screenful
^D Down half screenful
$ Move cursor to the end of current line
0 (zero) Move cursor to the beginning of current line
w Forward one word
b Backward one word
  Exit Commands
:wq Write file to disk and quit the editor
:q! Quit (no warning)
:q Quit (a warning is printed if a modified file has not been saved)
ZZ Save workspace and quit the editor (same as :wq)
: 10,25 w temp

write lines 10 through 25 into file named temp. Of course, other line numbers can be used. (Use :f to find out the line numbers you want.

  Text Deletion Commands
x Delete character
dw Delete word from cursor on
db Delete word backward
dd Delete line
d$ Delete to end of line
d^ (d caret, not CTRL d) Delete to beginning of line
  Yank (has most of the options of delete)-- VI's copy commmand
yy yank current line
y$ yank to end of current line from cursor
yw yank from cursor to end of current word
5yy yank, for example, 5 lines
  Paste (used after delete or yank to recover lines.)
p paste below cursor
P paste above cursor
"2p paste from buffer 2 (there are 9)
u Undo last change
U Restore line
J Join next line down to the end of the current line
  File Manipulation Commands
:w Write workspace to original file
:w file Write workspace to named file
:e file Start editing a new file
:r file Read contents of a file to the workspace
  Other Useful Commands

Most commands can be repeated n times by typing a number, n, before the command. For example 10dd means delete 10 lines.

. Repeat last command
cw Change current word to a new word
r Replace one character at the cursor position
R Begin overstrike or replace mode – use ESC key to exit
:/ pattern Search forward for the pattern
:? pattern Search backward for the pattern

(used after either of the 2 search commands above to continue to find next occurrence of the pattern.


Replace every occurrence of pattern1 (pat1) with pat2.

Example :g/tIO/s//Ada.Text_IO/g
This will find and replace tIO by Ada.text_IO everywhere in the file.
:g/a/s// /g replace the letter a, by blank
:g/a/s///g replace a by nothing
note: Even this command be undone by u


Vim Configuration File

For Debian-based linux, the Vim configuration file is located at /etc/vim/vimrc. You may comment or uncomment some of the lines to tweek Vim to your likes. Here are some useful options that can be enabled.

  1. Enable syntax highlighting.
    syntax on
  2. Makes the syntax highlighting color suits a dark background. Enable this if your terminal is dark.
    set background=dark
  3. Perform case insensitive matching.
    set ignorecase
  4. Show matching brackets.
    set showmatch
  5. Ask Vim to preserve tabs (instead of converting them to spaces), and set tab width to 4.
    set noexpandtab
    set softtabstop=0
    set shiftwidth=4
    set tabstop=4
  6. Enable smart indenting.
    set smartindent

Reference: http://www.radford.edu/~mhtay/CPSC120/VIM_Editor_Commands.htm