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gui_w32 - Vim Documentation

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gui_w32.txt   For Vim version 9.1.  Last change: 2024 Jan 23

                  VIM REFERENCE MANUAL    by Bram Moolenaar

Vim's Win32 Graphical User Interface                    gui-w32 win32-gui

1. Starting the GUI             gui-w32-start
2. Vim as default editor        vim-default-editor
3. Using the clipboard          gui-clipboard
4. Shell Commands               gui-shell-win32
5. Special colors               win32-colors
6. Windows dialogs & browsers   gui-w32-dialogs
7. Command line arguments       gui-w32-cmdargs
8. Various                      gui-w32-various

Other relevant documentation:
gui.txt       For generic items of the GUI.
os_win32.txt  For Win32 specific items.

1. Starting the GUI                                     gui-w32-start

The Win32 GUI version of Vim will always start the GUI, no matter how you
start it or what it's called.

The GUI will always run in the Windows subsystem.  Mostly shells automatically
return with a command prompt after starting gvim.  If not, you should use the
"start" command:
        start gvim [options] file ..
The console version with the -g option may also start the GUI by executing
        vim -g [options] file ..
To make this work, gvim.exe must exist in the same directory as the vim.exe,
and this feature must be enabled at compile time.

One may also use :gui from the console version.  However, this is an
experimental feature and this feature must be enabled at compile time.
It uses a session file to recreate the current state of the console Vim in the
GUI Vim.

Note: All fonts (bold, italic) must be of the same size!!!  If you don't do
this, text will disappear or mess up the display.  Vim does not check the font
sizes.  It's the size in screen pixels that must be the same.  Note that some
fonts that have the same point size don't have the same pixel size!
Additionally, the positioning of the fonts must be the same (ascent and

The Win32 GUI has an extra menu item:  "Edit/Select Font".  It brings up the
standard Windows font selector.

Setting the menu height doesn't work for the Win32 GUI.

If you want Vim to start with a maximized window, add this command to your
vimrc or gvimrc file:
        au GUIEnter * simalt ~x

Using Vim as a plugin                                   gui-w32-windowid

When gvim starts up normally, it creates its own top level window.  If you
pass Vim the command-line option --windowid with a decimal or hexadecimal
value, Vim will create a window that is a child of the window with the given
ID.  This enables Vim to act as a plugin in another application.  This really
is a programmer's interface, and is of no use without a supporting application
to spawn Vim correctly.

2. Vim as default editor                                vim-default-editor

To set Vim as the default editor for a file type:
1. Start a Windows Explorer
2. Choose View/Options -> File Types
3. Select the path to gvim for every file type that you want to use it for.
   (you can also use three spaces in the file type field, for files without an
   In the "open" action, use:
        gvim "%1"
   The quotes are required for using file names with embedded spaces.
   You can also use this:
        gvim "%L"
   This should avoid short (8.3 character) file names in some situations.  But
   I'm not sure if this works everywhere.

When you open a file in Vim by double clicking it, Vim changes to that
file's directory.

If you want Vim to start full-screen, use this for the Open action:
        gvim -c "simalt ~x" "%1"

Another method, which also works when you put Vim in another directory (e.g.,
when you have got a new version):
1. select a file you want to use Vim with
2. <Shift-F10>
3. select "Open With..." menu entry
4. click "Other..."
5. browse to the (new) location of Vim and click "Open"
6. make "Always Use this program..." checked
7. <OK>

                                                send-to-menu sendto
You can also install Vim in the "Send To" menu:
1. Start a Windows Explorer
2. Navigate to your sendto directory:
   C:\Users\%user%\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\SendTo .
3. Right-click in the file pane and select New->Shortcut
4. Follow the shortcut wizard, using the full path to VIM/GVIM.

When you 'send a file to Vim', Vim changes to that file's directory.  Note,
however, that any long directory names will appear in their short (MS-DOS)
form on some Windows versions.  This is a limitation of the Windows "Send To"

You could replace notepad.exe with gvim.exe, but that has a few side effects.
Some programs rely on notepad arguments, which are not recognized by Vim.  For
example "notepad -p" is used by some applications to print a file.  It's
better to leave notepad where it is and use another way to start Vim.

A more drastic approach is to install an "Edit with Vim" entry in the popup
menu for the right mouse button.  With this you can edit any file with Vim.

This can co-exist with the file associations mentioned above.  The difference
is that the file associations will make starting Vim the default action.  With
the "Edit with Vim" menu entry you can keep the existing file association for
double clicking on the file, and edit the file with Vim when you want.  For
example, you can associate "*.mak" with your make program.  You can execute
the makefile by double clicking it and use the "Edit with Vim" entry to edit
the makefile.

You can select any files and right-click to see a menu option called "Edit
with gvim".  Choosing this menu option will invoke gvim with the file you have
selected.  If you select multiple files, you will find two gvim-related menu
"Edit with multiple gvims"  -- one gvim for each file in the selection
"Edit with single gvim"     -- one gvim for all the files in the selection
And if there already is a gvim running:
"Edit with existing gvim"   -- edit the file with the running gvim

The "edit with existing Vim" entries can be disabled by adding an entry in the
registry under HKLM\Software\Vim\Gvim, named DisableEditWithExisting, and with
any value.
You can add the "Edit with Vim" menu entry in an easy way by using the
"install.exe" program.  It will add several registry entries for you.

You can also do this by hand.  This is complicated!  Use the install.exe if
you can.

1. Start the registry editor with "regedit".
2. Add these keys:
   key          value name                  value
                {default}                   Vim Shell Extension
                {default}                   {path}\gvimext.dll
                ThreadingModel              Apartment
                {default}                   {51EEE242-AD87-11d3-9C1E-0090278BBD99}
   HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Shell Extensions\Approved
                                            Vim Shell Extension
                path                        {path}\gvim.exe
   HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Uninstall\vim 8.2
                DisplayName                 Vim 8.2: Edit with Vim popup menu entry
                UninstallString             {path}\uninstall.exe

   Replace {path} with the path that leads to the executable.
   Don't type {default}, this is the value for the key itself.

To remove "Edit with Vim" from the popup menu, just remove the registry
entries mentioned above.  The "uninstall.exe" program can do this for you.
You can also use the entry in the Windows standard "Add/Remove Programs" list.

If you notice that this entry overrules other file type associations, set
those associations again by hand (using Windows Explorer, see above).  This
only seems to happen on some Windows NT versions (Windows bug?).  Procedure:
1. Find the name of the file type.  This can be done by starting the registry
   editor, and searching for the extension in \\HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT
2. In a Windows Explorer, use View/Options/File Types.  Search for the file
   type in the list and click "Edit".  In the actions list, you can select on
   to be used as the default (normally the "open" action) and click on the
   "Set Default" button.

Vim in the "Open With..." context menu                  win32-open-with-menu

If you use the Vim install program you have the choice to add Vim to the "Open
With..." menu.  This means you can use Vim to edit many files.  Not every file
(for unclear reasons...), thus the "Edit with Vim" menu entry is still useful.

One reason to add this is to be able to edit HTML files directly from Internet
Explorer.  To enable this use the "Tools" menu, "Internet Options..." entry.
In the dialog select the "Programs" tab and select Vim in the "HTML editor"
choice.  If it's not there then installing didn't work properly.

Doing this manually can be done with this script:





@="c:\\vim\\vim82\\gvim.exe \"%1\""




Change the "c:\\vim\\vim82" bit to where gvim.exe is actually located.

To uninstall this run the Vim uninstall program or manually delete the
registry entries with "regedit".

3. Using the clipboard                                  gui-clipboard

Windows has a clipboard, where you can copy text to, and paste text from.  Vim
supports this in several ways.  For other systems see gui-selections.

The "* register reflects the contents of the clipboard.  quotestar

When the "unnamed" string is included in the 'clipboard' option, the unnamed
register is the same.  Thus you can yank to and paste from the clipboard
without prepending "* to commands. If this doesn't work use the "unnamedplus"
string in the 'clipboard' option.

The 'a' flag in 'guioptions' is not included by default.  This means that text
is only put on the clipboard when an operation is performed on it.  Just
Visually selecting text doesn't put it on the clipboard.  When the 'a' flag is
included, the text is copied to the clipboard even when it is not operated

To use the standard MS-Windows way of CTRL-XCTRL-C and CTRL-V, use the
$VIMRUNTIME/mswin.vim script.  You could add this line to your _vimrc file:
        source $VIMRUNTIME/mswin.vim

Since CTRL-C is used to copy the text to the clipboard, it can't be used to
cancel an operation.  Use CTRL-Break for that.

CTRL-Z is used for undo.  This means you can't suspend Vim with this key, use
:suspend instead (if it's supported at all).

                                                CTRL-V-alternative CTRL-Q
Since CTRL-V is used to paste, you can't use it to start a blockwise Visual
selection.  You can use CTRL-Q instead.  You can also use CTRL-Q in Insert
mode and Command-line mode to get the old meaning of CTRL-V.  But CTRL-Q
doesn't work for terminals when it's used for control flow.

NOTE: The clipboard support still has a number of bugs.  See todo.

4. Shell Commands                                       gui-shell-win32

Vim uses another window for external commands, to make it possible to run any
command.  The external command gets its own environment for running, just like
it was started from a DOS prompt.

Executing an external command is done indirectly by the "vimrun" command.  The
"vimrun.exe" must be in the path for this to work.  Or it must be in the same
directory as the Vim executable.  If "vimrun" cannot be found, the command is
executed directly, but then the DOS window closes immediately after the
external command has finished.
WARNING: If you close this window with the "X" button, and confirm the
question if you really want to kill the application, Vim may be killed too!
(This does not apply to commands run asynchronously with ":!start".)

The window in which the commands are executed will be the default you have set
up for "Console" in Control Panel.

Normally, Vim waits for a command to complete before continuing (this makes
sense for most shell commands which produce output for Vim to use).  If you
want Vim to start a program and return immediately, you can use the following
        :!start [/min] {command}
The optional "/min" causes the window to be minimized.

5. Special colors                                       win32-colors

On Win32, the normal DOS colors can be used.  See dos-colors.

Additionally the system configured colors can also be used.  These are known
by the names Sys_XXX, where XXX is the appropriate system color name, from the
following list (see the Win32 documentation for full descriptions).  Case is

Sys_3DDKShadow          Sys_3DFace                      Sys_BTNFace
Sys_3DHilight           Sys_3DHighlight                 Sys_BTNHilight
Sys_BTNHighlight        Sys_3DLight                     Sys_3DShadow
Sys_BTNShadow           Sys_ActiveBorder                Sys_ActiveCaption
Sys_AppWorkspace        Sys_Background                  Sys_Desktop
Sys_BTNText             Sys_CaptionText                 Sys_GrayText
Sys_Highlight           Sys_HighlightText               Sys_InactiveBorder
Sys_InactiveCaption     Sys_InactiveCaptionText         Sys_InfoBK
Sys_InfoText            Sys_Menu                        Sys_MenuText
Sys_ScrollBar           Sys_Window                      Sys_WindowFrame

Probably the most useful values are
        Sys_Window          Normal window background
        Sys_WindowText      Normal window text
        Sys_Highlight       Highlighted background
        Sys_HighlightText   Highlighted text

These extra colors are also available:
Gray, Grey, LightYellow, SeaGreen, Orange, Purple, SlateBlue, Violet,

Additionally, colors defined by a default color list can be used.  For more
info see :colorscheme.  These colors used to be defined in
$VIMRUNTIME/rgb.txt, now they are in v:colornames which is initialized from

                                                gui-w32-dialogs dialog
6. Windows dialogs & browsers

The Win32 GUI can use familiar Windows components for some operations, as well
as the traditional interface shared with the console version.

6.1 Dialogs

The dialogs displayed by the "confirm" family (i.e. the 'confirm' option,
:confirm command and confirm() function) are GUI-based rather than the
console-based ones used by other versions.  The 'c' flag in 'guioptions'
changes this.

6.2 File Browsers

When prepending ":browse" before file editing commands, a file requester is
used to allow you to select an existing file.  See :browse.

6.3 Tearoff Menus

The Win32 GUI emulates Motif's tear-off menus.  At the top of each menu you
will see a small graphic "rip here" sign.  Selecting it will cause a floating
window to be created with the same menu entries on it.  The floating menu can
then be accessed just as if it was the original (including sub-menus), but
without having to go to the menu bar each time.
This is most useful if you find yourself using a command buried in a sub-menu
over and over again.
The tearoff menus can be positioned where you like, and always stay just above
the Main Vim window.  You can get rid of them by closing them as usual; they
also of course close when you exit Vim.

                                                        :tearoff :te
:te[aroff] {name}       Tear-off the menu {name}.  The menu named must have at
                        least one subentry, but need not appear on the
                        menu-bar (see win32-hidden-menus).

        :tearoff File
will make the "File" menu (if there is one) appear as a tearoff menu.

        :amenu ]Toolbar.Make    :make<CR>
        :tearoff ]Toolbar
This creates a floating menu that doesn't exist on the main menu-bar.

Note that a menu that starts with ']' will not be displayed.

7. Command line arguments                               gui-w32-cmdargs

Command line arguments behave the same way as with the console application,
see win32-cmdargs.

8. Various                                              gui-w32-various

The "File/Print" menu prints the text with syntax highlighting, see
:hardcopy.  If you just want to print the raw text and have a default
printer installed this should also work:
        :w >>prn

Vim supports a number of standard MS-Windows features.  Some of these are
detailed elsewhere: see 'mouse'win32-hidden-menus.

You can drag and drop one or more files into the Vim window, where they will
be opened as normal.  See drag-n-drop.

                                                        :simalt :sim
:sim[alt] {key}         simulate pressing {key} while holding Alt pressed.
                        {only for Win32 versions}
                        Note: ":si" means ":s" with the "i" flag.

Normally, Vim takes control of all Alt-<Key> combinations, to increase the
number of possible mappings.  This clashes with the standard use of Alt as the
key for accessing menus.
The quick way of getting standard behavior is to set the 'winaltkeys' option
to "yes".  This however prevents you from mapping Alt keys at all.
Another way is to set 'winaltkeys' to "menu".  Menu shortcut keys are then
handled by windows, other ALT keys can be mapped.  This doesn't allow a
dependency on the current state though.
To get round this, the :simalt command allows Vim (when 'winaltkeys' is not
"yes") to fake a Windows-style Alt keypress.  You can use this to map Alt key
combinations (or anything else for that matter) to produce standard Windows
actions.  Here are some examples:

        :map <M-f> :simalt f<CR>
This makes Alt-F pop down the 'File' menu (with the stock Menu.vim) by
simulating the keystrokes Alt, F.
        :map <M-Space> :simalt ~<CR>
This maps Alt-Space to pop down the system menu for the Vim window.  Note that
~ is used by simalt to represent the <Space> character.
        :map <C-n> :simalt ~n<CR>
Maps Control-N to produce the keys Alt-Space followed by N.  This minimizes the
Vim window via the system menu.

Note that the key changes depending on the language you are using.

When using the Intellimouse mouse wheel causes Vim to stop accepting input, go
        ControlPanel - Mouse - Wheel - UniversalScrolling - Exceptions

And add gvim to the list of applications.  This problem only appears to happen
with the Intellimouse driver 2.2 and when "Universal Scrolling" is turned on.

XPM support                                             w32-xpm-support

GVim can be built on MS-Windows with support for XPM files.  +xpm_w32
See the Make_mvc.mak file for instructions, search for XPM.

To try out if XPM support works do this:
        :let runtime = escape($VIMRUNTIME, ' \')
        :exe 'sign define vimxpm icon=' .. runtime .. '\\vim16x16.xpm'
        :exe 'sign place 1 line=1 name=vimxpm file=' .. expand('%:p')

You may need to get the vim16x16.xpm file from github:

Keycode translation strategy    w32-experimental-keycode-trans-strategy

In Patch v8.2.4807 W32 GVIM was changed over to experimental keycode
translation method with the aim to be able to use more keyboard shortcuts and
especially supporting non-standard keyboard layouts. In order to implement
this support Win API TranslateMessage() call was dropped, and instead the
recognition of keycode was changed over to ToUnicode() Win API call. This
approach uncovered numerous corner cases, which are apparently covered by
TranslateMessage() implementation, each of it is necessary to be dealt with on
an individual basis. Therefore the decision was taken to declare this
functionality experimental for the time being and to recover "classic" keycode
translation method as default again.

Discussion about use of "experimental" keycode translation method will
probably last some time yet. In the meantime, if you are impacted by this
change over back to "classic" keycode translation method in W32 GVIM, you can
enable "experimental" translation method again in your vimrc using following

  :call test_mswin_event('set_keycode_trans_strategy', {'strategy': 'experimental'})

Similarly, in case you need to turn back "classic" keycode translation method
(for example for testing purposes), please use:

  :call test_mswin_event('set_keycode_trans_strategy', {'strategy': 'classic'})

Alternatively (this method is especially useful for the TINY GVIM build, where
test_mswin_event() cannot be called), an environment variable
VIM_KEYCODE_TRANS_STRATEGY can be set to the desired value ("experimental" or
"classic"), to override the default, e.g., type in dos prompt:

        set VIM_KEYCODE_TRANS_STRATEGY=experimental