Created: Introductory Vimming

Updated: 03 September 2023

To start using Vim, first install it from here

To get some quick tips and information you can use the Vim tutor application, this can be launched from CMD using the vimtutor command. For some reason this doesn’t work right from Powershell

Creating a file

  1. From Powershell or CMD navigate to a directory in which you can create a new file, then run vim filename.txt to create a new file with the given name and open the file in the Vim Editor
  2. Now that you have the file open you can move around using either your arrow keys or the h,j,k,l keys

Basic Modes

Vim has two main modes, a viewing mode and an editing mode, to exit the editing mode you simply need to click the esc key. To enter the edit mode you have the following two options:

  • i will allow you to insert text before the cursor
  • a will allow you to append text after the cursor
  • A will allow you to append text at the end of the line

Save and Edit Files

Next, once out of edit mode you can:

  • :w to save changes
  • :wq save changes and close
  • :q! abandon changes and close

To open and continue editing a file you can again run vim filename.txt

To delete content from a file you have the following options:

  • x to delete the current highlighted character
  • dw to delete the currently highlighted word
  • d$ to delete until the end of the line

If you’re editing and would like to go and do something else and then come back to edit the file, you can do the following:

  1. shift + z to pause the editing session and put it in the background
  2. fg to resume editing the file

Operators and Motions

Commands in Vim consist of an operator and a motion, for example the d$ command d is the delete operator and $ is the motion. Some other motions are:

  • w until before the next word
  • e until the end of the current word
  • $ until the end of the line

Additionally, you can add a number before an operator to repeat it. e.g 2w will move two words. By combining this with the command we can delete 2 words with d2w or d3$ to delete three lines

Since deleting an entire line is also a common task, you can delete entire lines with dd, so 3dd can also be used to delete three lines


Use p to put previously deleted text after the cursor (this is sort of like cutting and pasting), you can use this with dw or de for word based deletions or dd and d$ for line based deletions


To replace a character wth another you can use r followed by the character you want to replace, for example re will replace the highligted character with an e, additionaly to replace multiple characters you can use R


To change until the end of a word use ce, this will allow you to overwrite the current word from the current current position. This operator works the same as when using the delete operator

Moving Around

  • ctrl g to see where in a file you currently are
  • G to move to the bottom of a file
  • gg to move to the top of a file
  • A line number followed by G to go to a line, e.g 12G will take you to line 12


To search you can use / followed by a search phrase and then click enter

  • n to search in the same direction
  • N to search in the opposite direction
  • ? to search in the backward direction
  • ctrl o to go back to where you were before
  • ctrl i to go forward
  • % will search for a matching bracket, ), ], }
  • :noh will clear the highlighting from the search results


Substitution is done using the :s command, the structure of this command works like so:

  • :s/old/new - replace the first occurence in the line
  • :s/old/new/g - the g flag means to substitute in the line
  • s/old/new/gc - the added c flag means to replace every occurence and ask for a confirmation each time
  • :#,#s/old/new/g - to replace all the occurences withing a line range, e.g between line 1 and 10: :1,10/old/new/g

Executing Shell Commands

From Vim, you can execte a command on the shell in which you’ve launched from using the :! followed by the command you want to execute

Selecting Text

Aside from the normal edit and view modes we also have visual mode which allows you to read in/select a section of text

  • You can use v to enter visual mode
  • When in visual mode :w followed by a file name will write the selection to a file. Verify that you see :'<,'>w Filename because this will indicate you are in the correct mode
  • To insert the contents of the written file you can use :r followed by the filename to insert the contents into your current file
  • You can also use x to delete the highlighted text
  • Using the above concept you can also read the output from a system command with :r ! followed by your command, so to read the contents of your current directory into the file you can do :r !ls

Inserting Lines

To insert and enter edit mode you can use o or O

  • o will insert a line below your cursor
  • O will insert a line above your cursor

Copy and Paste

To copy and paste text you can use the yank operator, this is done using y

  1. Start visual mode with v
  2. y to copy the highlighted text
  3. p to put the text

y also functions as an operator so you can use the normal functionality as with other Vim commands, like yw to copy a word

Undo and Redo

  • To undo use u
  • To redo use ctrl + r

Setting Options

Options/settings for Vim can be set using the :set command followed by the option name, some common options are:

  • ic to ignore case when searching
  • hls to set the incsearch option
  • To ignore case for a single search you can use /searchterm\c
  • :nohlsearch will clear the search highlighting

Multiple Windows

To split your screen into multiple windows you can use:

  • :sp followed by the file path for a horizontal split
  • :vsp followed by the filepath for a vertical split
  • ctrl + w twice to toggle focus between windows
  • :wa to save all windows
  • :wqa to save all windows and quit
  • :qa to quit all windows

Also for resizing windows you can make use of some of the following commands:

  • ctrl + W = to make all windows equal sizes
  • :res n to resize windows by n

And ctrl + W r to rotate the windows or ctrl + W DIR to move to the window in the DIR direction using h, j, k, l

File Management

:Explore will open the file explorer from the current file’s directory, from this view managing files can be done with the following commands:

  • Navigation and searching in the context of the directory works as normal, Enter will open the file or directory
  • % to create a file
  • d to create a directory
  • R to rename a file

In Normal mode, you can use the following:

  • Ctrl + o to go to previous (“old”) file
  • Ctrl + i to go to next file

Focusing Line

  • zz will center the current line on the screen
  • zt will move the current line to the top of the screen
  • zb will move the current line to the bottom of the screen

You can also use the so setting for keeping this behaviour

  • set so=0 is the default and will not focus to scroll
  • set so=999 will keep your focus in the center
  • set so=5 will keep 5 lines around your focus

Sliding Editor Up

You can slide the editor up by adding padding to the bottom of the current editor with crtl+e which is useful when editing a line towards to bottom of the screen

Opening a Terminal

You can open a terminal using the :term command, and you can exit terminal mode using ctrl + \ ctrl + n, thereafter using :q to close the terminal window


To get help you can use the :help command, to search for a specfic topic you can just add it after the help command like :help nohlsearch, you can then type :q to close the help menu

Enabling Features

To enable Vim features you can make use of a startup script or a vimrc file

Miscellaneous Options

  • :set number to turn on line numbers
  • :syntax on to turn on syntax highlighting