How to Use Vim

Vim, short for Vi IMproved, is a powerful and highly configurable text editor that is widely used on Unix-based systems, including Linux. While Vim can seem intimidating at first, it is an essential tool for anyone who spends a lot of time working with text files or programming code. In this how-to guide, we will cover some of the basic Vim commands and features to get you started.

Opening a File in Vim

To open a file in Vim, simply type vim followed by the filename at the command prompt. For example, to open a file called example.txt, type:

vim example.txt

If the file does not exist, Vim will create a new file with that name.

Basic Navigation

Once you have opened a file in Vim, you can navigate through the document using the following commands:

  • j moves the cursor down one line
  • k moves the cursor up one line
  • h moves the cursor left one character
  • l moves the cursor right one character
  • w moves the cursor forward one word
  • b moves the cursor backward one word
  • gg moves the cursor to the beginning of the file
  • G moves the cursor to the end of the file

Editing Text

To start editing text in Vim, you need to switch to insert mode. You can do this by typing i. In insert mode, you can type normally and the text will be inserted at the current cursor position.

To switch back to normal mode, where you can enter commands, press the Esc key.

Some common text editing commands in Vim include:

  • dd deletes the current line
  • yy copies the current line
  • p pastes the last deleted or copied text
  • u undoes the last action
  • Ctrl-r redoes the last undone action

Saving and Quitting

To save changes to a file in Vim, type :w followed by Enter. To quit Vim, type :q. If you have made changes to the file and want to save and quit at the same time, type :wq. If you want to force Vim to quit without saving changes, type :q!.

Advanced Features

While these basic commands are enough to get you started with Vim, there are many more advanced features that can greatly enhance your productivity. Here are a few examples:

  • Vim has a built-in search feature that allows you to search for text within a file. To search for a specific term, type / followed by the search term and press Enter.
  • Vim has a powerful macro recording feature that allows you to record a series of keystrokes and play them back later. To start recording a macro, type q followed by a letter (e.g. q a). To stop recording, press q again. To play back the macro, type @ followed by the letter you chose (e.g. @ a).
  • Vim supports syntax highlighting for many programming languages, which can help make your code more readable. To enable syntax highlighting, type :syntax on and press Enter.


Vim is a powerful and versatile text editor that can greatly improve your productivity as a programmer or text file editor. While it may take some time to learn all the commands and features, the effort is well worth it. With practice, you can become a Vim power user and enjoy the many benefits it offers.


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