How to use vim for Beginners

An awesome text editor for programmers

vim the command line text editor

In this tutorial, we are going to take a look at look at how we can use the vim and why it is better than the other text editors. Also, we will learn how to use it on Android Devices.

Ready?

Let’s get started!

What is vim? and why it is a better text editor?

Vim is an acronym for Vi IMproved. It is a free and open-source text editor written by Bram Moolenaar. It was first released in 1991 for UNIX variants and its main goal was to provide enhancement to the Vi editor, which was released way back in 1976.

Vim is highly customizable and extensible, making it an attractive tool for users that demand a large amount of control and flexibility over their text editing environment. There are many plugins available that will extend or add new functionality to Vim, such as linters, integration of git, showing colors in CSS.

What we are going to learn

  1. How to start vim
  2. Vim Modes
  3. Creating new file
  4. View file in read-only mode
  5. Edit existing file
  6. Vim help manual
  7. How to installed and run Vim on Android

How to Start and Close vim

Using Vim from terminal will be identical on Windows as well as Linux platform. Perform the following steps to start and quit Vim from terminal

$ vim

It will open Vim in the terminal as follows

vim the command line text editor
vim the command line text editor
Vim’s Command Line Interface

to close this, press Esc key followed by colon : and q. In Vim q command stands for quit. This command will be shown in the bottom left corner of the editor itself

Vim’s Command Line Interface (Command Mode)

Vim Modes

Vim supports multiple modes. This section discusses some of the important modes which will be used on a day-to-day basis.

Command Mode

This is the default mode in which Vim starts. We can enter editor commands in this mode. We can use a variety of commands in this mode like copy, paste, delete, replace and many more. We’ll discuss these commands in later sections.

NOTE − Here onwards, any Vim command without colon indicates that we are executing that command in command mode.

Insert Mode

You can use this mode to enter/edit text. To switch from default command to insert mode press i key. It will show the current mode in the bottom left corner of the editor.

We can enter any text once we are in insert mode. Below image shows this

Vim’s Command Line Interface (Insert Mode)

Use the Escape Esc key to switch back to command mode from this mode.

Command Line Mode

This mode is also used to enter commands. Commands in this mode starts with colon :. For instance, in the previous section quit command was entered in this mode. We can go to this mode either from command or insert mode.

  • To switch from command mode to this mode just type colon :
  • To switch from insert mode to this mode press Esc and type colon :

In below image colon at bottom left indicates line mode.

Vim’s Command Line Interface (Command Mode)

NOTE − Here onwards, any Vim command starting with colon indicates that we are executing that command in command line mode.

Visual Mode

In this mode, we can visually select text and run commands on selected sections.

  • To switch from command mode to visual mode type v
  • To switch from any other mode to visual mode first switch back to command mode by pressing Esc, then type v to switch to visual mode

In below image bottom left corner shows visual mode.

Vim’s Command Line Interface (Visual Mode)

Create new file

Perform the below steps to create and save new file

Execute the following command to open Vim

$ vim

Type following command in Vim

:edit message.txt

Switch to insert mode

i

Enter some text and Switch back to command mode

Esc

Save changes to file

:w

Now message.txt file will be created. To quit Vim

:q

Open file in read-only mode

Use –R option to open file in read-only mode

$ vim -R message.txt

In below image bottom left corner shows read-only mode

Vim’s Command Line Interface (Read-Only Mode)

Alternatively, you can use view command to achieve the same result.

Edit existing file

Perform below steps to edit existing file

Open file using Vim

$ vim message.txt

Switch to insert mode and enter some text there.

i

Quit editor without saving changes

:q!

Save changes and quit editor using following command

:wq

Vim is a feature-rich editor hence remembering everything about it will be difficult. But there is no need to worry, we can always ask for help. Fortunately, this help is provided by Vim itself.

Access help manual

The help manual is shipped with the Vim editor itself and it is really comprehensive. To access help execute below command

:help
Vim help.txt

Help on specific topic

Help manual will show entire help about Vim. But what if, we are only interested in certain topics. Vim provides command for that as well with following syntax

:help <topic-name>

In the above command replace <topic-name> with the topic in which you are interested. For instance to access help about vim mode, execute following command

:help modes
Vim’s help manual

Access online help

Vim also provides online help. To access online help

How to install and run Vim on Android

  1. Install termux app from google play store
  2. After installation open the app and type $ pkg update && pkg upgrade
  3. After that has been done type $ pkg install vim

That it now you have vim installed in your Android Device enjoy!

Conclusion

In this tutorial, we learned how we can use the vim text editor to edit text files and we also learned how to use vim’s built-in help manual.

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