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usr_02.txt    For Vim version 9.1.  Last change: 2021 Apr 24

                     VIM USER MANUAL - by Bram Moolenaar

                            The first steps in Vim

This chapter provides just enough information to edit a file with Vim.  Not
well or fast, but you can edit.  Take some time to practice with these
commands, they form the base for what follows.

02.1  Running Vim for the First Time
02.2  Inserting text
02.3  Moving around
02.4  Deleting characters
02.5  Undo and Redo
02.6  Other editing commands
02.7  Getting out
02.8  Finding help

     Next chapter: usr_03.txt  Moving around
 Previous chapter: usr_01.txt  About the manuals
Table of contents: usr_toc.txt

02.1  Running Vim for the First Time

To start Vim, enter this command:

        gvim file.txt

In UNIX you can type this at any command prompt.  If you are running Microsoft
Windows, open a Command Prompt and enter the command.
   In either case, Vim starts editing a file called file.txt.  Because this
is a new file, you get a blank window. This is what your screen will look

        |#                                      |
        |~                                      |
        |~                                      |
        |~                                      |
        |~                                      |
        |"file.txt" [New file]                  |
                ('#' is the cursor position.)

The tilde (~) lines indicate lines not in the file.  In other words, when Vim
runs out of file to display, it displays tilde lines.  At the bottom of the
screen, a message line indicates the file is named file.txt and shows that you
are creating a new file.  The message information is temporary and other
information overwrites it.


The gvim command causes the editor to create a new window for editing.  If you
use this command:

        vim file.txt

the editing occurs inside your command window.  In other words, if you are
running inside an xterm, the editor uses your xterm window.  If you are using
an MS-Windows command prompt window, the editing occurs inside this window.
The text in the window will look the same for both versions, but with gvim you
have extra features, like a menu bar.  More about that later.

02.2  Inserting text

The Vim editor is a modal editor.  That means that the editor behaves
differently, depending on which mode you are in.  The two basic modes are
called Normal mode and Insert mode.  In Normal mode the characters you type
are commands.  In Insert mode the characters are inserted as text.
   Since you have just started Vim it will be in Normal mode.  To start Insert
mode you type the "i" command (i for Insert).  Then you can enter
the text.  It will be inserted into the file.  Do not worry if you make
mistakes; you can correct them later.  To enter the following programmer's
limerick, this is what you type:

        iA very intelligent turtle
        Found programming UNIX a hurdle

After typing "turtle" you press the <Enter> key to start a new line.  Finally
you press the <Esc> key to stop Insert mode and go back to Normal mode.  You
now have two lines of text in your Vim window:

        |A very intelligent turtle              |
        |Found programming UNIX a hurdle        |
        |~                                      |
        |~                                      |
        |                                       |


To be able to see what mode you are in, type this command:

        :set showmode

You will notice that when typing the colon Vim moves the cursor to the last
line of the window.  That's where you type colon commands (commands that start
with a colon).  Finish this command by pressing the <Enter> key (all commands
that start with a colon are finished this way).
   Now, if you type the "i" command Vim will display --INSERT-- at the bottom
of the window.  This indicates you are in Insert mode.

        |A very intelligent turtle              |
        |Found programming UNIX a hurdle        |
        |~                                      |
        |~                                      |
        |-- INSERT --                           |

If you press <Esc> to go back to Normal mode the last line will be made blank.


One of the problems for Vim novices is mode confusion, which is caused by
forgetting which mode you are in or by accidentally typing a command that
switches modes.  To get back to Normal mode, no matter what mode you are in,
press the <Esc> key.  Sometimes you have to press it twice.  If Vim beeps back
at you, you already are in Normal mode.

02.3  Moving around

After you return to Normal mode, you can move around by using these keys:

        h   left                                                hjkl
        j   down
        k   up
        l   right

At first, it may appear that these commands were chosen at random.  After all,
who ever heard of using l for right?  But actually, there is a very good
reason for these choices: Moving the cursor is the most common thing you do in
an editor, and these keys are on the home row of your right hand.  In other
words, these commands are placed where you can type them the fastest
(especially when you type with ten fingers).

        You can also move the cursor by using the arrow keys.  If you do,
        however, you greatly slow down your editing because to press the arrow
        keys, you must move your hand from the text keys to the arrow keys.
        Considering that you might be doing it hundreds of times an hour, this
        can take a significant amount of time.
           Also, there are keyboards which do not have arrow keys, or which
        locate them in unusual places; therefore, knowing the use of the hjkl
        keys helps in those situations.

One way to remember these commands is that h is on the left, l is on the
right and j points down.  In a picture:

                   h     l

The best way to learn these commands is by using them.  Use the "i" command to
insert some more lines of text.  Then use the hjkl keys to move around and
insert a word somewhere.  Don't forget to press <Esc> to go back to Normal
mode.  The vimtutor is also a nice way to learn by doing.

For Japanese users, Hiroshi Iwatani suggested using this:

           Huan Ho      <--- --->  Los Angeles
        (Yellow river)      |
                          Java (the island, not the programming language)

02.4  Deleting characters

To delete a character, move the cursor over it and type "x".  (This is a
throwback to the old days of the typewriter, when you deleted things by typing
xxxx over them.)  Move the cursor to the beginning of the first line, for
example, and type xxxxxxx (seven x's) to delete "A very ".  The result should
look like this:

        |intelligent turtle                     |
        |Found programming UNIX a hurdle        |
        |~                                      |
        |~                                      |
        |                                       |

Now you can insert new text, for example by typing:

        iA young <Esc>

This begins an insert (the i), inserts the words "A young", and then exits
insert mode (the final <Esc>).  The result:

        |A young intelligent turtle             |
        |Found programming UNIX a hurdle        |
        |~                                      |
        |~                                      |
        |                                       |


To delete a whole line use the "dd" command.  The following line will
then move up to fill the gap:

        |Found programming UNIX a hurdle        |
        |~                                      |
        |~                                      |
        |~                                      |
        |                                       |


In Vim you can join two lines together, which means that the line break
between them is deleted.  The "J" command does this.
   Take these two lines:

        A young intelligent

Move the cursor to the first line and press "J":

        A young intelligent turtle

02.5  Undo and Redo

Suppose you delete too much.  Well, you can type it in again, but an easier
way exists.  The "u" command undoes the last edit.  Take a look at this in
action: After using "dd" to delete the first line, "u" brings it back.
   Another one: Move the cursor to the A in the first line:

        A young intelligent turtle

Now type xxxxxxx to delete "A young".  The result is as follows:

         intelligent turtle

Type "u" to undo the last delete.  That delete removed the g, so the undo
restores the character.

        g intelligent turtle

The next "u" command restores the next-to-last character deleted:

        ng intelligent turtle

The next "u" command gives you the u, and so on:

        ung intelligent turtle
        oung intelligent turtle
        young intelligent turtle
         young intelligent turtle
        A young intelligent turtle

        If you type "u" twice, and the result is that you get the same text
        back, you have Vim configured to work Vi compatible.  Look here to fix
        this: not-compatible.
           This text assumes you work "The Vim Way".  You might prefer to use
        the good old Vi way, but you will have to watch out for small
        differences in the text then.


If you undo too many times, you can press CTRL-R (redo) to reverse the
preceding command.  In other words, it undoes the undo.  To see this in
action, press CTRL-R twice.  The character A and the space after it disappear:

        young intelligent turtle

There's a special version of the undo command, the "U" (undo line) command.
The undo line command undoes all the changes made on the last line that was
edited.  Typing this command twice cancels the preceding "U".

        A very intelligent turtle
          xxxx                          Delete very

        A intelligent turtle
                      xxxxxx            Delete turtle

        A intelligent
                                        Restore line with "U"
        A very intelligent turtle
                                        Undo "U" with "u"
        A intelligent

The "U" command is a change by itself, which the "u" command undoes and CTRL-R
redoes.  This might be a bit confusing.  Don't worry, with "u" and CTRL-R you
can go to any of the situations you had.  More about that in section 32.2.

02.6  Other editing commands

Vim has a large number of commands to change the text.  See Q_in and below.
Here are a few often used ones.


The "i" command inserts a character before the character under the cursor.
That works fine; but what happens if you want to add stuff to the end of the
line?  For that you need to insert text after the cursor.  This is done with
the "a" (append) command.
   For example, to change the line

        and that's not saying much for the turtle.
        and that's not saying much for the turtle!!!

move the cursor over to the dot at the end of the line. Then type "x" to
delete the period.  The cursor is now positioned at the end of the line on the
e in turtle.  Now type


to append three exclamation points after the e in turtle:

        and that's not saying much for the turtle!!!


The "o" command creates a new, empty line below the cursor and puts Vim in
Insert mode.  Then you can type the text for the new line.
   Suppose the cursor is somewhere in the first of these two lines:

        A very intelligent turtle
        Found programming UNIX a hurdle

If you now use the "o" command and type new text:

        oThat liked using Vim<Esc>

The result is:

        A very intelligent turtle
        That liked using Vim
        Found programming UNIX a hurdle

The "O" command (uppercase) opens a line above the cursor.


Suppose you want to move up nine lines.  You can type "kkkkkkkkk" or you can
enter the command "9k".  In fact, you can precede many commands with a number.
Earlier in this chapter, for instance, you added three exclamation points to
the end of a line by typing "a!!!<Esc>".  Another way to do this is to use the
command "3a!<Esc>".  The count of 3 tells the command that follows to triple
its effect.  Similarly, to delete three characters, use the command "3x".  The
count always comes before the command it applies to.

02.7  Getting out

To exit, use the "ZZ" command.  This command writes the file and exits.

        Unlike many other editors, Vim does not automatically make a backup
        file.  If you type "ZZ", your changes are committed and there's no
        turning back.  You can configure the Vim editor to produce backup
        files; see 07.4.


Sometimes you will make a sequence of changes and suddenly realize you were
better off before you started.  Not to worry; Vim has a
quit-and-throw-things-away command.  It is:


Don't forget to press <Enter> to finish the command.

For those of you interested in the details, the three parts of this command
are the colon (:), which enters Command-line mode; the q command, which tells
the editor to quit; and the override command modifier (!).
   The override command modifier is needed because Vim is reluctant to throw
away changes.  If you were to just type ":q", Vim would display an error
message and refuse to exit:

        E37: No write since last change (use ! to override)

By specifying the override, you are in effect telling Vim, "I know that what
I'm doing looks stupid, but I really want to do this."

If you want to continue editing with Vim: The ":e!" command reloads the
original version of the file.

02.8  Finding help

Everything you always wanted to know can be found in the Vim help files.
Don't be afraid to ask!

If you know what you are looking for, it is usually easier to search for it
using the help system, instead of using Google.  Because the subjects follow
a certain style guide.

Also the help has the advantage of belonging to your particular Vim version.
You won't see help for commands added later.  These would not work for you.

To get generic help use this command:


You could also use the first function key <F1>.  If your keyboard has a <Help>
key it might work as well.
   If you don't supply a subject, ":help" displays the general help window.
The creators of Vim did something very clever (or very lazy) with the help
system: They made the help window a normal editing window.  You can use all
the normal Vim commands to move through the help information.  Therefore h, j,
k, and l move left, down, up and right.
   To get out of the help window, use the same command you use to get out of
the editor: "ZZ".  This will only close the help window, not exit Vim.

As you read the help text, you will notice some text enclosed in vertical bars
(for example, help).  This indicates a hyperlink.  If you position the
cursor anywhere between the bars and press CTRL-] (jump to tag), the help
system takes you to the indicated subject.  (For reasons not discussed here,
the Vim terminology for a hyperlink is tag.  So CTRL-] jumps to the location
of the tag given by the word under the cursor.)
   After a few jumps, you might want to go back.  CTRL-T (pop tag) takes you
back to the preceding position.  CTRL-O (jump to older position) also works
nicely here.
   At the top of the help screen, there is the notation *help.txt*.  This name
between "*" characters is used by the help system to define a tag (hyperlink
   See 29.1 for details about using tags.

To get help on a given subject, use the following command:

        :help {subject}

To get help on the "x" command, for example, enter the following:

        :help x

To find out how to delete text, use this command:

        :help deleting

To get a complete index of all Vim commands, use the following command:

        :help index

When you need to get help for a control character command (for example,
CTRL-A), you need to spell it with the prefix "CTRL-".

        :help CTRL-A

The Vim editor has many different modes.  By default, the help system displays
the normal-mode commands.  For example, the following command displays help
for the normal-mode CTRL-H command:

        :help CTRL-H

To identify other modes, use a mode prefix.  If you want the help for the
insert-mode version of a command, use "i_".  For CTRL-H this gives you the
following command:

        :help i_CTRL-H

When you start the Vim editor, you can use several command-line arguments.
These all begin with a dash (-).  To find what the -t argument does, for
example, use the command:

        :help -t

The Vim editor has a number of options that enable you to configure and
customize the editor.  If you want help for an option, you need to enclose it
in single quotation marks.  To find out what the 'number' option does, for
example, use the following command:

        :help 'number'

The table with all mode prefixes can be found below: help-summary.

Special keys are enclosed in angle brackets.  To find help on the up-arrow key
in Insert mode, for instance, use this command:

        :help i_<Up>

If you see an error message that you don't understand, for example:

        E37: No write since last change (use ! to override)

You can use the error ID at the start to find help about it:

        :help E37

Summary:                                        help-summary 

1) Use Ctrl-D after typing a topic and let Vim show all available topics.
   Or press Tab to complete:
        :help some<Tab>
    More information on how to use the help:
        :help helphelp

2) Follow the links in bars to related help.  You can go from the detailed
   help to the user documentation, which describes certain commands more from
   a user perspective and less detailed.  E.g. after:
        :help pattern.txt
    You can see the user guide topics 03.9 and usr_27.txt in the

3) Options are enclosed in single apostrophes.  To go to the help topic for the
   list option:
        :help 'list'
    If you only know you are looking for a certain option, you can also do:
        :help options.txt
    to open the help page which describes all option handling and then search
   using regular expressions, e.g. textwidth.
   Certain options have their own namespace, e.g.:
        :help cpo-<letter>
    for the corresponding flag of the 'cpoptions' settings, substitute <letter>
   by a specific flag, e.g.:
        :help cpo-;
    And for the 'guioptions' flags:
        :help go-<letter>

4) Normal mode commands do not have a prefix. To go to the help page for the
   "gt" command:
        :help gt

5) Insert mode commands start with i_.  Help for deleting a word:
        :help i_CTRL-W

6) Visual mode commands start with v_.  Help for jumping to the other side of
   the Visual area:
        :help v_o

7) Command line editing and arguments start with c_.  Help for using the
   command argument %:
        :help c_%

8) Ex-commands always start with ":", so to go to the ":s" command help:
        :help :s

9) Commands specifically for debugging start with ">".  To go to the help
   for the "cont" debug command:
        :help >cont

10) Key combinations.  They usually start with a single letter indicating
    the mode for which they can be used.  E.g.:
        :help i_CTRL-X
     takes you to the family of CTRL-X commands for insert mode which can be
    used to auto-complete different things.  Note, that certain keys will
    always be written the same, e.g. Control will always be CTRL.
    For normal mode commands there is no prefix and the topic is available at
    :h CTRL-<Letter>. E.g. 
        :help CTRL-W
     In contrast
        :help c_CTRL-R
     will describe what the CTRL-R does when entering commands in the Command
    line and
        :help v_CTRL-A
     talks about incrementing numbers in visual mode and
        :help g_CTRL-A
     talks about the "g<C-A>" command (e.g. you have to press "g" then
    <CTRL-A>).  Here the "g" stands for the normal command "g" which always
    expects a second key before doing something similar to the commands
    starting with "z".

11) Regexp items always start with /.  So to get help for the "\+" quantifier
    in Vim regexes:
        :help /\+
     If you need to know everything about regular expressions, start reading
        :help pattern.txt

12) Registers always start with "quote". To find out about the special ":"
        :help quote:

13) Vim script is available at
        :help eval.txt
     Certain aspects of the language are available at :h expr-X where "X" is a
    single letter. E.g. 
        :help expr-!
     will take you to the topic describing the "!" (Not) operator for Vim
    Also important is
        :help function-list
     to find a short description of all functions available.  Help topics for
    Vim script functions always include the "()", so:
        :help append()
     talks about the append Vim script function rather than how to append text
    in the current buffer.

14) Mappings are talked about in the help page :h map.txt. Use
        :help mapmode-i
     to find out about the :imap command.  Also use :map-topic
    to find out about certain subtopics particular for mappings.  e.g:
        :help :map-local
     for buffer-local mappings or
        :help map-bar
     for how the '|' is handled in mappings.

15) Command definitions are talked about :h command-topic, so use
        :help command-bar
     to find out about the '!' argument for custom commands.

16) Window management commands always start with CTRL-W, so you find the
    corresponding help at :h CTRL-W_letter.  E.g.
        :help CTRL-W_p
     for moving the previous accessed window.  You can also access
        :help windows.txt
     and read your way through if you are looking for window handling

17) Use :helpgrep to search in all help pages (and also of any installed
    plugins).  See :helpgrep for how to use it.
    To search for a topic:
        :helpgrep topic
     This takes you to the first match.  To go to the next one:
     All matches are available in the quickfix window which can be opened
     Move around to the match you like and press Enter to jump to that help.

18) The user manual.  This describes help topics for beginners in a rather
    friendly way.  Start at usr_toc.txt to find the table of content (as you
    might have guessed):
        :help usr_toc.txt
     Skim over the contents to find interesting topics. The "Digraphs" and
    "Entering special characters" items are in chapter 24, so to go to that
    particular help page:
        :help usr_24.txt
     Also if you want to access a certain chapter in the help, the chapter
    number can be accessed directly like this:
        :help 10.1
     which goes to chapter 10.1 in usr_10.txt and talks about recording

19) Highlighting groups.  Always start with hl-groupname.  E.g.
        :help hl-WarningMsg
     talks about the WarningMsg highlighting group.

20) Syntax highlighting is namespaced to :syn-topic.  E.g.
        :help :syn-conceal
     talks about the conceal argument for the ":syn" command.

21) Quickfix commands usually start with :c while location list commands
    usually start with :l

22) Autocommand events can be found by their name:
        :help BufWinLeave
     To see all possible events:
        :help autocommand-events

23) Command-line switches always start with "-".  So for the help of the -f
    command switch of Vim use:
        :help -f

24) Optional features always start with "+".  To find out about the
    conceal feature use:
        :help +conceal

25) Documentation for included filetype specific functionality is usually
    available in the form ft-<filetype>-<functionality>.  So
        :help ft-c-syntax
     talks about the C syntax file and the option it provides.  Sometimes,
    additional sections for omni completion
        :help ft-php-omni
     or filetype plugins
        :help ft-tex-plugin
     are available.

26) Error and Warning codes can be looked up directly in the help.  So
        :help E297
     takes you exactly to the description of the swap error message and
        :help W10
     talks about the warning "Changing a readonly file".
    Sometimes, however, those error codes are not described, but rather are
    listed at the Vim command that usually causes this.  So:
        :help E128
     takes you to the :function command


Next chapter: usr_03.txt  Moving around

Copyright: see manual-copyright  vim:tw=78:ts=8:noet:ft=help:norl: