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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 (vimscript), a visual mode for text selection, and comparison of files (vimdiff).


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 :h 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: ~/.vimrc, and Vim files of current user are located inside ~/.vim/. The global configuration file is located at /etc/vimrc. Global Vim files are located inside /usr/share/vim/.

Note: Commonly expected behavior such as syntax highlighting is enabled in defaults.vim, which is loaded when no ~/.vimrc is present. Add let skip_defaults_vim=1 to /etc/vimrc to disable loading of defaults.vim completely. [1]


Vim commands such as :yank or :paste operate with the unnamed register, which by default corresponds to the "* register. If the +clipboard feature is available, the "* register is reflected to the PRIMARY buffer in X.

To change the default register, you can :set clipboard=unnamedplus to use the "+ register instead. The "+ register corresponds to the CLIPBOARD buffer in X.

For more information, see :help 'clipboard'.

Tip: Custom shortcuts for copy and paste operations can be created. See e.g. [2] for binding ctrl+c, ctrl+v and ctrl+x.

Syntax highlighting

To enable syntax highlighting (Vim supports a huge list of programming languages):

:filetype plugin on
:syntax on

Visual wrapping

The wrap 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 wrap 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 set linebreak, the wrapping occurs after characters listed in the breakat string option, which by default contains a space and some punctuation marks (see :help breakat).

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 breakindentopt option, for example to shift the wrapped line another four spaces to the right for Python files (see :help breakindentopt 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: on Linux it is xterm-based terminals and Linux console with gpm (see Console mouse support for details), and also PuTTY.

To enable this feature, add this line into ~/.vimrc:

set mouse=a

The mouse=a option is set in defaults.vim, which is sourced if there is no ~/.vimrc.

Note: When enabling the mouse in a terminal, copy/paste will use the "* register if there is access to an X server. The xterm handling of the mouse buttons can still be used by keeping the shift key pressed. Also see the clipboard option.

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 set whichwrap=b,s,<,>,[,] to your ~/.vimrc 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: vimdiff file1 file2. Here is the list of vimdiff-specific commands.

Action Shortcut
next change ]c
previous change [c
diff obtain do
diff put dp
fold open zo
fold close zc
rescan files :diffupdate

Tips and tricks

Line numbers

To show the line number column, use :set number. By default absolute line numbers are shown, relative numbers can be enabled with :set relativenumber.

Jumping to a specific line is possible with :line number or line numbergg. Jumps are remembered in a jump list, see :h jump-motions 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. More dictionaries can be found in the official repositories by searching for vim-spell. 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: :setlocal spell spelllang=en_us (replacing the en_us with the name of the needed dictionary).

Action Shortcut
next spelling ]s
previous spelling [s
spelling suggestions z=
spelling good, add zg
spelling good, session zG
spelling wrong, add zw
spelling wrong, session zW
spelling repeat all in file :spellr
  • To enable spelling in two languages (for instance English and German), add set spelllang=en,de into your ~/.vimrc or /etc/vimrc, and then restart Vim.
  • You can enable spell checking for arbitrary file types (e.g. .txt) by using the FileType plugin and a custom rule for file type detection. To enable spell checking for any file ending with .txt, create the file /usr/share/vim/vimfiles/ftdetect/plaintext.vim, and insert the line autocmd BufRead,BufNewFile *.txt setfiletype plaintext into that file. Next, insert the line autocmd FileType plaintext setlocal spell spelllang=en_us into your ~/.vimrc or /etc/vimrc, and then restart Vim.
  • To enable spell checking for LaTeX (or TeX) documents only, add autocmd FileType tex setlocal spell spelllang=en_us into your ~/.vimrc or /etc/vimrc, and then restart Vim.

Save cursor position

If you want the cursor to appear in its previous position after you open a file, add the following to your ~/.vimrc:

augroup resCur
  autocmd BufReadPost * call setpos(".", getpos("'\""))
augroup END

Replace vi command with Vim

Create an alias for vi to vim.

Alternatively, if you want to be able to type sudo vi and get vim, install vi-vim-symlinkAUR which will remove vi and replace it with a symlink to vim.

DOS/Windows carriage returns

If there is a ^M 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 ^M.

To remove all carriage returns from a file do:


Note that there ^ is a control letter. To enter the control sequence ^M press Ctrl+v,Ctrl+m.

Alternatively install the package dos2unix and run dos2unix file to fix the file.

Note: Another simple way is by changing fileformat setting. set ff=unix to convert files with DOS/Windows line ending to Unix line ending. To do the reverse, just issue set ff=dos to convert files with Unix line ending to DOS/Windows line ending.

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 ~/.vimrc:

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


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

Tip: For a list of popular plugins, see Vim Awesome


Using a plugin manager

A plugin manager allows to install and manage Vim plugins in a similar way independently on which platform you are running Vim. It is a plugin that acts as a package manager for other Vim plugins.

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

From Arch repositories

The vim-plugins group provides many various plugins. Use pacman -Sg vim-plugins 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 cscope package.

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

mkdir -p ~/.vim/plugin
wget -P ~/.vim/plugin
Note: You will probably need to uncomment these lines in ~/.vim/plugin/cscope_maps.vim in order to enable cscope shortcuts in Vim 7.x:
set timeoutlen=4000
set ttimeout

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
Note: You must browse your project files from this location or set and export the $CSCOPE_DB variable, pointing it to the cscope.out file.

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 vim-taglist package.

Useful options to be put in ~/.vimrc:

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

See also