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Table of contents
1.
Introduction
2.
Installation and Configuration of Vim in Our Linux System
3.
Let's Start to Use Vim
3.1.
Write into a File
3.2.
Save and Exit
3.3.
Exit Without Saving the File
3.4.
Moving the Cursor
3.5.
Exiting Vim
3.6.
Text Editing: Deletion
3.7.
Text Editing: Insertion
4.
Motion
5.
Count
6.
Deletion Commands
7.
Undo and Redo
8.
Replace
9.
Change Operator
10.
Cursor Location and Movement Tricks
11.
Search
12.
Search and Replace
13.
Vim Configuration
14.
Frequently Asked Questions
14.1.
Is Vim suitable for beginners?
14.2.
How do I exit Vim if I accidentally open it?
14.3.
What are some useful plugins for Vim?
15.
Conclusion
Last Updated: Mar 27, 2024
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Vim Command in Linux

Author Riya Singh
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Roadmap to SDE career at Amazon
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Anubhav Sinha
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25 Jun, 2024 @ 01:30 PM

Introduction

Vim, a powerful text editor, is significant for many developers & Linux users alike. Known for its efficiency & versatility, mastering Vim can significantly enhance your coding & text editing capabilities. 

Vim Command in Linux

In this article, we'll explore the essentials of Vim, covering installation, basic commands, text editing, motion, & more. By the end of this article, you'll be equipped with a solid foundation to navigate & edit files with ease in Vim.

Installation and Configuration of Vim in Our Linux System

Installing & configuring Vim on a Linux system is straightforward. For most Linux distributions, Vim can be installed from the package manager. For example, on Debian-based systems like Ubuntu, you can use the following command:

sudo apt update
sudo apt install vim


For Red Hat-based systems like Fedora or CentOS, the command changes slightly:

 

sudo dnf install vim

Once installed, Vim doesn't require much initial configuration to get started. However, customizing Vim to suit your preferences can greatly enhance your productivity. Vim's settings are stored in a file called .vimrc located in your home directory. You can create or edit this file to customize Vim. For instance, to enable line numbering, you can add the following line to your .vimrc file:

set number


This simple step will ensure every line in your Vim editor is numbered, making it easier to navigate through your code.

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Let's Start to Use Vim

Getting started with Vim involves understanding its modes, primarily the Normal, Insert, & Command-Line modes. When you first open Vim, you're in Normal mode, where you can navigate & use shortcuts but can't directly edit the text.

To start editing a file in Vim, follow these steps:

  • Open your terminal.
     
  • Type vim filename (replace filename with the name of the file you wish to edit) & press Enter. This will open the file in Vim or create a new file if it doesn't exist.
     
  • To switch to Insert mode, where you can type & edit text like in a conventional text editor, press i. You'll see -- INSERT -- at the bottom, indicating you're in Insert mode. Now you can type & edit the content.
     
  • To return to Normal mode from Insert mode, simply press Esc. In Normal mode, you can save your changes or exit Vim using various commands.

Write into a File

In Vim, writing or adding text to a file is a task performed in Insert mode. Here's how you can do it:

  • Open the file in Vim by typing vim filename in your terminal.
     
  • Once the file is open, you're initially in Normal mode. Press i to enter Insert mode.
     
  • Start typing to add your text. In Insert mode, Vim functions like a regular text editor, allowing you to type & edit the text freely.
     
  • To save your changes & continue editing, press Esc to return to Normal mode, then type :w & press Enter. 
     
  • This writes the changes to the file but keeps it open for further editing.

Remember, Vim doesn't automatically save your changes as some modern editors do. You must explicitly save your changes using the :w command.

Save and Exit

To save your work and exit Vim, you need to issue a command in Normal mode. Here's how to do it:

  • If you're in Insert mode, press Esc to switch back to Normal mode.
     
  • Type :wq (which stands for write and quit) and then press Enter.
     

This command saves any changes you've made to the file and then closes Vim. If you haven't made any changes and still want to exit, typing :q and pressing Enter will suffice. However, if you've made changes and try to exit with just :q, Vim will warn you about unsaved changes. In that case, you can use :q! to forcefully quit without saving, but be cautious as this will discard any unsaved work.

Exit Without Saving the File

Exiting Vim without saving changes is useful when you've made edits that you no longer wish to keep. To do this, follow these steps:

  • Ensure you're in Normal mode by pressing Esc.
     
  • Type :q! and then press Enter.
     

The :q! command forces Vim to quit without saving any changes, effectively discarding any edits made during the session. This command is particularly handy when you need to abandon all changes and start fresh or if you opened a file just to view its contents without intending to modify anything.

Moving the Cursor

Navigating through text efficiently is crucial in Vim, & it offers a variety of commands for moving the cursor around. Here's a basic guide:

  • h moves the cursor left.
     
  • j moves the cursor down.
     
  • k moves the cursor up.
     
  • l moves the cursor right.

These keys allow you to navigate without removing your hands from the keyboard's home row, enhancing efficiency. For larger movements:

  • 0 moves to the start of the line.
     
  • $ moves to the end of the line.
     
  • w jumps forward to the start of the next word.
     
  • b jumps backward to the start of the previous word.
     
  • G jumps to the end of the file.
     
  • gg jumps to the start of the file.

Using these commands, you can quickly navigate through your text without relying on a mouse or trackpad, making your editing process faster & more keyboard-centric.

Exiting Vim

Exiting Vim is a common challenge for beginners, but it's straightforward once you know the commands. To exit Vim:

  • Press Esc to ensure you're in Normal mode.
     
  • Type :q and press Enter to quit if you haven't made any changes, or if you have saved all your changes.

If you've made changes and haven't saved them, Vim will prevent you from exiting to avoid loss of work. In this case, you have two options:

Save your changes and exit by typing :wq and pressing Enter.

Discard changes and exit forcefully by typing :q! and pressing Enter.

It's important to remember these commands to ensure a smooth workflow and to avoid getting stuck in Vim.

Text Editing: Deletion

Vim offers a range of commands for deleting text, allowing you to efficiently edit files:

  • x: Deletes the character under the cursor. Think of it as pressing the 'Delete' key in other text editors.
     
  • dd: Deletes the entire line the cursor is on. If you need to delete multiple lines, precede dd with a number (e.g., 3dd deletes 3 lines).
     
  • D: Deletes all content from the cursor's position to the end of the line.
     
  • dw: Deletes from the cursor's position to the end of the current word. If the cursor is in the middle of a word, it will delete the rest of that word.
     

Using these commands, you can quickly remove unwanted text without reaching for the mouse or navigating through menus. Remember, in Vim, most commands can be preceded by a number to repeat the action, making bulk deletions efficient and straightforward.

Text Editing: Insertion

In Vim, entering text is primarily done in Insert mode. Here are a few key commands to start inserting text:

  • i: Enters Insert mode at the cursor's current position, allowing you to start typing immediately.
     
  • I: Jumps to the beginning of the current line and enters Insert mode, ideal for adding content at the start of a line.
     
  • a: Enters Insert mode just after the current cursor position, essentially allowing you to append text.
     
  • A: Moves the cursor to the end of the current line and enters Insert mode, perfect for adding text at the line's end.
     
  • o: Opens a new line below the current line and enters Insert mode, making it easy to add new content beneath.
     
  • O: Opens a new line above the current line and enters Insert mode, useful for inserting text above the cursor.
     

These commands offer flexibility in how and where you can insert text, streamlining the editing process by keeping your hands on the keyboard and reducing the need to switch modes frequently.

Motion

Mastering motion commands in Vim is key to navigating and editing files efficiently. These commands allow you to move the cursor around quickly without using a mouse:

  • h, j, k, l: Move the cursor left, down, up, and right, respectively. These keys are your basic navigation tools in Normal mode.
     
  • w: Moves the cursor to the start of the next word. This is handy for quickly jumping forward in your text.
     
  • b: Moves the cursor to the beginning of the current or previous word, ideal for moving backward.
     
  • e: Moves the cursor to the end of the current or next word, allowing precise control over cursor placement.
     
  • 0: Moves the cursor to the beginning of the current line, useful for quickly getting to the start of a line.
     
  • $: Moves the cursor to the end of the current line, great for reaching the line's end without counting characters.
     
  • gg: Jumps to the beginning of the file, a quick way to get back to the top.
     
  • G: Takes you to the end of the file, useful for quickly navigating to the bottom.
     

These commands can be combined with others for more powerful effects, like d2w to delete the next two words or c$ to change (delete and then enter insert mode) everything from the cursor to the end of the line.

Count

In Vim, the concept of "count" allows you to repeat certain commands a specified number of times, enhancing efficiency and precision. Here's how to use counts:

Precede a motion command with a number to repeat it. For example, 5j moves the cursor down 5 lines, and 3w moves the cursor forward 3 words.

You can also combine counts with editing commands for bulk actions. For instance, 2dd deletes 2 lines, and 4x removes 4 characters from the cursor's position.

Counts can be used with the find command (f followed by a character) to jump to the nth occurrence of a character on the current line. For example, 3fa would move the cursor to the 3rd occurrence of the letter "a" to the right of the cursor.

Using counts can significantly speed up your workflow by reducing the number of keystrokes needed to perform repetitive tasks, making your editing more efficient.

Deletion Commands

Deletion in Vim is not just about removing text; it's about doing so efficiently and with precision. Here are some advanced deletion commands:

  • dw: Deletes from the cursor to the end of the word. If you're in the middle of a word, it deletes to the end of that word.
     
  • d$ or D: Deletes from the cursor to the end of the line, a quick way to clear the rest of a line.
     
  • db: Deletes from the cursor to the beginning of the word, useful for removing partial words.
     
  • dd: Deletes the entire line, one of the most commonly used Vim commands for quick line removal.
     
  • dgg: Deletes from the current line to the beginning of the file, useful for bulk deletions at the start of a document.
     
  • dG: Deletes from the current line to the end of the file, handy for clearing everything below a certain point.
     

Combining these commands with counts increases their power, allowing you to delete multiple words, lines, or sections at once, such as 3dw to delete the next three words.

Undo and Redo

In Vim, the ability to undo and redo changes is a fundamental aspect of the editing process, allowing you to easily correct mistakes or revisit previous edits.

  • To undo the last action, simply press u while in Normal mode. Vim's undo system is quite powerful, allowing you to undo a series of actions one by one, all the way back to the state of the file when you first opened it.
     
  • If you've undone changes and wish to redo them, press Ctrl + r (holding down the Control key and then pressing r). This redo command reverses the last undo action, and you can keep pressing Ctrl + r to redo multiple actions in the order they were undone.
     
  • Vim tracks your changes in a buffer, enabling you to navigate through your edit history efficiently. This feature is invaluable when experimenting with changes or learning new commands, as it provides a safety net for trial and error.

Replace

In Vim, replacing text can be done in several ways, depending on the scope and nature of the replacements you want to make:

  • Single Character Replacement: To replace the character under the cursor, simply press r followed by the character you want to use as a replacement. For example, pressing ra would replace the character under the cursor with an 'a'.
     
  • Replace Mode: By pressing R, you enter Replace mode, where you can type over the existing text. Unlike Insert mode, which shifts text to the right as you type, Replace mode overwrites the existing characters.
     
  • Substituting Text: For more extensive replacements, the :s command is used. For instance, :s/old/new/ replaces the first occurrence of "old" with "new" on the current line. To replace all occurrences on the current line, you'd use :s/old/new/g. To extend this to the entire file, you'd use :%s/old/new/g.
     

These replace functions in Vim allow for precise control over text editing, making it easier to correct mistakes or update text without removing your hands from the keyboard.

Change Operator

The change operator in Vim, denoted by c, is a versatile tool that combines deletion with a transition into Insert mode, streamlining the editing process. Here's how to use it effectively:

  • cw: This command changes the word from the cursor's position to the end of the word. If the cursor is in the middle of a word, cw will delete the remainder of the word and switch to Insert mode for immediate typing.
     
  • cc or S: Either of these commands changes the entire line, deleting its content and allowing you to type a new line.
     
  • c$ or C: This command changes the text from the cursor's position to the end of the line, deleting the text and entering Insert mode.
     
  • ciw: This stands for "change in word," which removes the entire word the cursor is on and puts you in Insert mode. It's particularly useful for replacing a whole word without having to select it precisely.
     

The change operator can be preceded by a count to affect multiple instances, like 2cw to change the next two words. This powerful feature enables efficient, targeted modifications within your text.

Cursor Location and Movement Tricks

In Vim, efficiently moving the cursor and understanding its current location are key to effective editing. Here are some tip
s and tricks:

  • Ctrl + o: Jumps you back to your previous cursor position, great for navigating back after moving to a different part of the file.
     
  • Ctrl + i: Takes you forward to your next cursor position, useful for retracing your steps forward after using Ctrl + o.
     
  • H: Moves the cursor to the top of the screen (High).
     
  • M: Moves the cursor to the middle of the screen.
     
  • L: Moves the cursor to the bottom of the screen (Low).
     
  • %: If the cursor is on a bracket ((, [, {), % jumps to its matching pair, helping you quickly navigate through code blocks.
     
  • :set ruler: By enabling the ruler, you can always see the cursor's current line and column at the bottom of the Vim window, helping you pinpoint your location in the file.
     

These commands enhance your ability to move around large files quickly and to know at all times where you are, which is especially useful in complex projects or lengthy documents.

Search

Searching for text within Vim is a powerful feature that allows you to quickly navigate to specific parts of your document. Here's how to perform searches:

  • To search forward for a word or phrase, type / followed by the word or phrase you're looking for, then press Enter. For example, /example will search for the first occurrence of "example" after the cursor.
     
  • To search backward, use ? instead of /. For instance, ?example will search for "example" before the cursor's current position.
     
  • Once you've initiated a search, you can jump to the next occurrence of the search term by pressing n. To move to the previous occurrence, press N.
     
  • Vim supports regular expressions in searches, allowing for complex pattern matching.
     
  • This search functionality is invaluable for quickly finding instances of variables, function names, or specific phrases within your code or text files.

Search and Replace

Vim's search and replace functionality is a powerful tool for making global changes in your text. Here's how to use it:

To initiate a search and replace operation, use the command :%s/old/new/g, where:

  • old is the text you want to find.
     
  • new is the text you want to replace it with.
     
  • g stands for "global," meaning it replaces all occurrences in the file. If you omit g, Vim will only replace the first occurrence on each line.
     
  • Press Enter to execute the search and replace operation. Vim will show you a preview of the changes it intends to make.
     
  • To confirm each replacement one by one, press y for "yes" when prompted for each change, or press n for "no" to skip a particular change.
     
  • To replace all occurrences without confirming, you can use :%s/old/new/gc instead. The c stands for "confirm."
     
  • Vim's search and replace feature allow you to make global changes efficiently while having control over each replacement, ensuring accuracy in your edits.

Vim Configuration

Customizing Vim through configuration is a common practice to tailor the editor to your specific needs. Vim's configuration is typically done in a file called .vimrc located in your home directory. Here's a brief overview of what you can configure:

  • Keybindings: You can map keys to execute specific commands or macros, making Vim more efficient for your workflow.
     
  • Plugins: Vim supports a wide range of plugins that add functionality, such as syntax highlighting, code completion, and version control integration.
     
  • Color Schemes: You can change the color scheme to make Vim visually appealing and more comfortable to work with.
     
  • Settings: Modify various settings to control Vim's behavior, including indentation, line numbering, and tab stops.
     

For example, to enable line numbering in Vim, you can add the following line to your .vimrc file:

set number

This customization allows you to tailor Vim to your preferences and optimize it for your coding tasks.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Vim suitable for beginners?

Vim has a steep learning curve, which can be intimidating for beginners. However, with dedication and practice, it can become a powerful tool for coding and text editing.

How do I exit Vim if I accidentally open it?

If you find yourself in Vim unintentionally, you can exit by pressing Esc to ensure you're in Normal mode, then typing :q! and pressing Enter. This will forcefully quit Vim without saving changes.

What are some useful plugins for Vim?

There are numerous Vim plugins available to enhance your experience, such as "Vim-Plug" for managing plugins, "NERDTree" for file navigation, and "YouCompleteMe" for code completion. Explore these plugins to customize Vim to your needs.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Vim stands as a powerful text editor renowned for its efficiency and versatility, although it may pose an initial learning curve. From basic navigation to advanced search and replace commands, Vim empowers users to swiftly and precisely manipulate text and code. Its unique modal editing system, extensive customization options, and vibrant plugin ecosystem make it an invaluable tool for developers and writers seeking enhanced productivity. Embracing Vim offers the promise of accelerated editing proficiency, making it an indispensable skill for anyone working with text files, code, or documents. Dive in, practice diligently, and experience firsthand the transformative potential of Vim in streamlining your workflow and boosting your productivity.

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