Vim is a terminal text editor. It is an extended version of vi with additional features, including syntax highlighting, a comprehensive help system, native scripting (Vim script), a visual mode for text selection, comparison of files (vimdiff(1)), and tools with restricted capabilities such as rview(1) and rvim(1).


Install one of the following packages:

  • vim — with Python 2/3, Lua, Ruby and Perl interpreters support but without GTK/X support.
  • gvim — which also provides the same as the above vim package with GTK/X support.
  • The vim package is built without Xorg support; specifically the +clipboard feature is missing, so Vim will not be able to operate with the primary and clipboard selection buffers. The gvim package provides also the CLI version of Vim with the +clipboard feature.
  • The unofficial repository herecura also provides a number of Vim/gVim variants: vim-cli, vim-gvim-common, vim-gvim-gtk, vim-gvim-qt, vim-rt and vim-tiny.


For a basic overview on how to use Vim, follow the vim tutorial by running either vimtutor (for the terminal version) or gvimtutor (for the graphical version).

Vim includes a broad help system that can be accessed with the :h subject command. Subjects include commands, configuration options, key bindings, plugins etc. Use the command (without any subject) for information about the help system and jumping between subjects.


Vim's user-specific configuration file is located in the home directory: , and Vim files of current user are located inside . The global configuration file is located at . Global Vim files such as defaults.vim and archlinux.vim are located inside .

For gVim, the user-specific configuration file is located at and the global configuration file is located at .


Vim commands such as or normally operate with the unnamed register . If the feature is available and its value includes unnamed, then Vim yank, delete, change and put operations which would normally go to the unnamed register will use the clipboard register "* instead, which is the buffer in X.

To change the default register, you can to use the register instead. The clipboard register corresponds to the buffer in X. It should be noted that the option can be set to a comma-delimited value. If you , then yank operations will also copy the yanked text to the "* register in addition to the register (however, delete, change and put operations will still only operate on the register).

For more information, see . There are other values which can be set for the feature. You can use to take you to the help topic for the first valid value which can be set for this feature, followed by help for all other valid values.

  • Custom shortcuts for copy and paste operations can be created. See e.g. for binding Ctrl+c, Ctrl+v and Ctrl+x.
  • The X clipboard gets flushed when vim exits. To make the vim selection persistent within X clipboard, you need a clipboard manager. Alternatively, you can add autocmd VimLeave * call system("echo -n
" . escape(getreg(), "'") . "' | xsel --input --clipboard") to your .vimrc (requires the xsel package).

Syntax highlighting

To enable syntax highlighting for many programming languages:

 :filetype plugin on  :syntax on


The indent file for specific file types can be loaded with:

 :filetype indent on

Visual wrapping

The option is on by default, which instructs Vim to wrap lines longer than the width of the window, so that the rest of the line is displayed on the next line. The option only affects how text is displayed, the text itself is not modified.

The wrapping normally occurs after the last character that fits the window, even when it is in the middle of a word. More intelligent wrapping can be controlled with the linebreak option. When it is enabled with , the wrapping occurs after characters listed in the string option, which by default contains a space and some punctuation marks (see ).

Wrapped lines are normally displayed at the beginning of the next line, regardless of any indentation. The breakindent option instructs Vim to take indentation into account when wrapping long lines, so that the wrapped lines keep the same indentation of the previously displayed line. The behaviour of breakindent can be fine-tuned with the option, for example to shift the wrapped line another four spaces to the right for Python files (see for details):

autocmd FileType python set breakindentopt=shift:4

Using the mouse

Vim has the ability to make use of the mouse, but it only works for certain terminals:

To enable this feature, add this line into :

set mouse=a

The option is set in defaults.vim.

Note: Copy/paste will use the "* register if there is access to an X server, see the #Clipboard section. The xterm handling of the mouse buttons can still be used by keeping the shift key pressed.

Traverse line breaks with arrow keys

By default, pressing at the beginning of a line, or pressing at the end of a line, will not let the cursor traverse to the previous, or following, line.

The default behavior can be changed by adding to your file.

Merging files

Vim includes a diff editor (a program that shows differences between two or more files and aids to conveniently merge them). Use vimdiff to run the diff editor — just specify some couple of files to it: . Here is the list of vimdiff-specific commands.

next change
previous change
diff obtain
diff putdp
fold open
fold close
rescan files:diffupdate

Tips and tricks

Line numbers

To show the line number column, use . By default absolute line numbers are shown, relative numbers can be enabled with . Setting both enables hybrid line numbers—the current line is absolute, while the others are relative.

Jumping to a specific line is possible with or . Jumps are remembered in a jump list, see for details.

Spell checking

Vim has the ability to do spell checking, enable by entering:

set spell

By default, only English language dictionaries are installed (in ). More dictionaries can be found in the official repositories by searching for . Additional dictionaries can be found in the Vim's FTP archive. Additional dictionaries can be put in the folder ~/.vim/spell/ and enabled with the command: (replacing the with the name of the needed dictionary).

next spelling]s
previous spelling
spelling suggestions
spelling good, add
spelling good, session
spelling wrong, add
spelling wrong, session
spelling repeat all in file:spellr

Saving runtime state

Normally, exiting vim discards all unessential information such as opened files, command line history, yanked text etc. Preserving this information can be configured in the following ways.

viminfo files

The file may also be used to store command line history, search string history, input-line history, registers' content, marks for files, location marks within files, last search/substitute pattern (to be used in search mode with and & within the session), buffer list, and any global variables you may have defined. For the modality to be available, the version of vim you installed must have been compiled with the feature.

Configure what is kept in your file, by adding (for example) the following to your file:

set viminfo='10,<100,:100,%,n~/.vim/.viminfo

where each parameter is preceded by an identifier:

'q  : q, number of edited file remembered
<m  : m, number of lines saved for each register

 :p  : p, number of history cmd lines remembered

%   : saves and restore the buffer list
n...: fully qualified path to the viminfo files (note that this is a literal "n")

See the official viminfo documentation for particulars on how a pre-existing file is modified as it is updated with current session information, say from several buffers in the current session you are in the process of exiting.

Session files

Session files can be used to save the state of any number of particular sessions over time. One distinct session file may be used for each session or project of your interest. For that modality to be available, the version of vim you installed must have been compiled with the feature.

Within a session, will write a vim-script to in the current directory, or Session.vim by default if you choose not to provide a file name. The optional will clobber a pre-existing session file with the same name and path.

A vim session can be resumed either when starting vim from terminal:

$ vim -S [my_session_name.vim]

Or in an already opened session buffer by running the vim command:

 :source my_session_name.vim

Exactly what is saved and additional details on session files options are extensively covered in the vim documentation. Commented examples are found here.

Saving cursor position

See Restore cursor to file position in previous editing session on the Vim wiki.

Replace vi command with Vim

Create an alias for to vim.

Alternatively, if you want to be able to type and get vim, install which will remove and replace it with a symlink to vim. You could also create this symlink yourself and place it somewhere higher in your path than to have it take precedence.

DOS/Windows carriage returns

If there is a at the end of each line then this means you are editing a text file which was created in MS-DOS or Windows. This is because in Linux only a single line feed character (LF) used for line break, but in Windows/MS DOS systems they are using a sequence of a carriage return (CR) and a line feed (LF) for the same. And this carriage returns are displayed as .

To remove all carriage returns from a file do:


Note that there ^ is a control letter. To enter the control sequence press .

Alternatively install the package and run to fix the file.

Empty space at the bottom of gVim windows

When using a window manager configured to ignore window size hints, gVim will fill the non-functional area with the GTK theme background color.

The solution is to adjust how much space gVim reserves at the bottom of the window. Put the following line in :

set guiheadroom=0
Note: If you set it to zero, you will not be able to see the bottom horizontal scrollbar.

Vim as a pager

Using scripts Vim can be used as a terminal pager, so that you get various vim features such as color schemes.

Vim comes with the script, for which you can create an alias. Note that this script does not support any command-line flags mentioned in .

Alternatively there is also the Vim script. To change the default pager, export the environment variable. Note that not all command-line flags are supported; the list of supported flags is available on GitHub.

Highlighting search results

In order to highlight the first string that will be matched in a search while typing the search, add the following line to your :

set incsearch

In order to highlight all strings that will be matched in a search while typing the search, and after the search has been executed, add the following line to your :

set hlsearch


Adding plugins to Vim can increase your productivity by extending Vim's features. Plugins can alter Vim's UI, add new commands, enable code completion support, integrate other programs and utilities with Vim, add support for additional languages and more.

Using the built-in package manager

Vim 8 added the possibility to load third-party plugins natively. This functionality can be used by storing third-party packages in the folder. The structure of this folder differs slightly from that of typical plugin managers which will usually have a single directory per plugin. What follows is a typical installation procedure and directory structure (using Tim Pope's vim-surround plugin as an example):

$ mkdir -p ~/.vim/pack/tpope/start

It is important to note that ~/.vim/pack/tpope is a package directory which is loosely defined as directory containing one or more plugins in the Vim documentation. Plugin repositories should not be downloaded to this directory though. The name of the package directory is also arbitrary. You can choose to keep all your plugins in a single package directory or, as in our example, use the author's GitHub name, .

The package directory can contain the following subfolders:

  • - plugins from this subfolder will be loaded automatically when Vim starts. This is the most frequently used location.
  • opt - plugins from this subfolder can be loaded on-demand by issuing command inside Vim.

Now change into the folder and checkout the plugin repository:

$ cd ~/.vim/pack/tpope/start
$ git clone

This creates an additional subfolder, , where the plugin files are placed.

Next, update the help index if the plugin contains help files:

$ vim -u NONE -c "helptags surround/doc" -c q

The plugin will now be loaded automatically when starting Vim. No changes to are required, barring plugin-specific options.

Using a plugin manager

A plugin manager is a plugin that installs, manages and updates Vim plugins. This can be useful if you are also using Vim on platforms other than Arch Linux and want a consistent method of updating plugins.

  • Vim-plug is a minimalist Vim plugin manager with many features like on-demand plugin loading and parallel updating, available as or .
  • Vundle is available as or .
  • pathogen.vim is a simple plugin for managing Vim's runtimepath, available as or vim-pathogen-gitAUR.
  • Dein.vim is a plugin manager replacing NeoBundle, available as or .

From Arch repositories

The vim-plugins group provides various plugins. Use command to list available packages which you can then install with pacman.


Cscope is a tool for browsing a project. By navigating to a word/symbol/function and calling cscope (usually with shortcut keys) it can find: functions calling the function, the function definition, and more.

Install the package.

Copy the cscope default file where it will be automatically read by Vim:

mkdir -p ~/.vim/plugin
wget -P ~/.vim/plugin

Create a file which contains the list of files you wish cscope to index (cscope can handle many languages but this example finds .c, .cpp and .h files, specific for C/C++ project):

$ cd /path/to/project/dir
$ find . -type f -print | grep -E '\.(c(pp)?|h)
> cscope.files

Create database files that cscope will read:

$ cscope -bq

Default keyboard shortcuts:

 Ctrl-\ and
      c: Find functions calling this function
      d: Find functions called by this function
      e: Find this egrep pattern
      f: Find this file
      g: Find this definition
      i: Find files #including this file
      s: Find this C symbol
      t: Find assignments to

Feel free to change the shortcuts.

#Maps ctrl-c to find functions calling the function
nnoremap <C-c> :cs find c <C-R>=expand("<cword>")<CR><CR>


Taglist provides an overview of the structure of source code files and allows you to efficiently browse through source code files in different programming languages.

Install the package.

Useful options to be put in :

let Tlist_Compact_Format = 1
let Tlist_GainFocus_On_ToggleOpen = 1
let Tlist_Close_On_Select = 1
nnoremap <C-l> :TlistToggle<CR>


gVim is slow

Vim's GTK 3 GUI may be slower than the GTK 2 version (see ). can be installed as a workaround.

See also




Cheat sheets




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