Mastering Vim

Posted June 10, 2023 by Rohith and Anusha ‐ 4 min read

Vim is a powerful and highly customizable text editor that has gained a cult following among developers and power users. Known for its efficiency and versatility, Vim offers a wide range of features and commands that can significantly enhance your productivity.

The Vim Philosophy

Vim follows the modal editing philosophy, which means it has different modes for different tasks. The two primary modes are:

Normal Mode

  • This is the default mode where you can navigate, search, and issue commands.

  • It’s the mode you enter when you open a file in Vim.

Insert Mode

  • In this mode, you can enter text as you would in any other text editor.

Modes of Vim

Normal Mode

  • Normal Mode is the default mode in Vim, and it’s where you spend most of your time when navigating and editing files.

  • In this mode, Vim provides powerful navigation and manipulation capabilities.

  • You can issue commands, move the cursor, search for text, delete and copy lines, and perform various editing tasks.

  • In Normal Mode, keystrokes are interpreted as commands rather than text input.

  • For example, pressing d followed by d (dd) deletes the current line, and y followed by y (yy) copies the current line.

  • Many commands in Normal Mode consist of single or multiple keystrokes, often combined with modifiers or operands.

  • To enter Normal Mode from other modes, you can press the Esc key.

Insert Mode

  • Insert Mode is where you can directly input and edit text as you would in any other text editor.

  • In this mode, Vim behaves similarly to traditional text editors.

  • You can insert characters, delete text, use arrow keys for navigation, and use shortcuts for common editing tasks.

  • To enter Insert Mode from Normal Mode, press the i key.

  • Once in Insert Mode, you can type your text. Pressing Esc will return you to Normal Mode.

Visual Mode

  • Visual Mode allows you to select and manipulate blocks of text visually.

  • This mode is particularly useful for making changes to specific regions of your text, such as copying, deleting, or applying formatting.

There are three variations of Visual Mode:

  • Character-wise Visual Mode: Selects text character by character.

  • Line-wise Visual Mode: Selects entire lines of text.

  • Block-wise Visual Mode: Selects a rectangular block of text.

To enter Visual Mode, first enter Normal Mode, navigate to the desired starting point, and then press one of the following keys:

  • v: Character-wise Visual Mode.

  • Shift + v: Line-wise Visual Mode.

  • Ctrl + v: Block-wise Visual Mode.

  • Once in Visual Mode, you can move the cursor to select the desired text.

  • After selecting the text, you can perform operations like copying, deleting, or indenting the selection.

Essential Vim Commands

  • h, j, k, l: Move left, down, up, and right respectively.

  • gg: Go to the beginning of the file.

  • G: Go to the end of the file.

  • w: Move to the beginning of the next word.

  • b: Move to the beginning of the previous word.

  • Ctrl + f: Scroll forward one page.

  • Ctrl + b: Scroll backward one page.


  • i: Enter Insert mode at the current cursor position.

  • A: Append text at the end of the current line.

  • o: Open a new line below the current line.

  • O: Open a new line above the current line.

  • x: Delete the character under the cursor.

  • dd: Delete the current line.

  • yy: Yank (copy) the current line.

  • p: Paste the previously yanked text.

Search and Replace

  • /pattern: Search for the specified pattern.

  • n: Go to the next occurrence of the search pattern.

  • N: Go to the previous occurrence of the search pattern.

  • :%s/old/new/g: Replace all occurrences of old with new in the entire file.

Saving and Quitting

  • :w: Save the current file.

  • :q: Quit Vim.

  • :wq or ZZ: Save and quit Vim.

Advanced Vim Techniques

Split Windows

Vim allows you to split the editor window vertically or horizontally, enabling you to work with multiple files or different parts of the same file simultaneously.

Use the following commands to split windows:

  • :split filename: Split the window horizontally and open the specified file.

  • :vsplit filename: Split the window vertically and open the specified file.

  • Ctrl + w + arrow keys: Switch between windows.


  • Vim allows you to record and replay a series of commands, known as macros.

  • This feature is particularly useful when you need to perform repetitive tasks.

  • To start recording a macro, use the q command followed by a letter to name the macro. To stop recording, press q again.

  • To replay the macro, type @ followed by the macro name.


  • Vim is highly customizable.

  • You can personalize your Vim experience by modifying the configuration file called .vimrc.

  • You can define custom key mappings, install plugins, and tweak various settings to match your workflow and preferences.


  • Vim is a text editor that rewards dedication and practice.

  • By familiarizing yourself with essential Vim commands and gradually incorporating more advanced techniques into your workflow, you can unlock the full potential of Vim.

  • Remember to take your time, practice regularly, and refer to the extensive documentation and online resources available to deepen your understanding of Vim’s capabilities.

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