vim cheatsheet that covers editing basics (and which mostly applies to other vi implementations as well)

vim basics cheatsheet

This cheatsheet is intended to help those who "barely can get around" in vi to become competent vim users. It is not intended for complete beginners, since an understanding of vi editing modes is assumed.

Most of these commands come from original vi, and theoretically will work in simple vi applications rather than just vim. "Theoretically" refers to a caveat that many embedded systems run an extremely cut-down busybox vi, leaving out a lot of supposedly standard vi features (sometimes explicitly warning that a feature is "not implemented", and sometimes just doing a weird edit instead of the intended one).

Notable vim-specific commands included in this list for being incredibly useful when available:

  • visual selection commands, in particular, column-selection mode for convenient editing of text in fixed-width columns
  • macro recording and playback, which can simplify repetitive editing tasks so easily that it has replaced many a throw-away perl/python/ruby/whatever script


absolute motion
   go to line number: <line number>G
   go to last line: G (without a number)
relative motion
   by character: arrow keys or hjkl (mneumonic: video game controls)
   by word: w forwards and b backwards
   by page: <ctrl>f forwards and <ctrl>b backwards
   beginning of line: 0
   end of line: $
   initial search: / forwards and ? backwards, followed by pattern
   find next: n forwards and N backwards
   find word under cursor: #
   go to marked line: '<marker letter> (normal single quote)
   go to marked character: \`<marker letter> (back tick)


insert new text
   insert before letter under cursor: i
   insert at beginning of line: I
   append after letter under cursor: a
   append after end of line: A
   open new line after current line: o
   open new line before current line: O
copy text (Yank)
   copy range: y (followed by motion to end of range)
   copy line: yy
delete text
   delete character: x (mneumonic: like typewriter strikeout)
   backspace character: X
   delete range: d (followed by motion to end of range)
   delete line: dd
paste text
   put after cursor: p
   put before cursor: P
replace text
   replace single character: r
   enter replace mode: R (text not typed over is unchanged)
change text (like delete followed by insert)
   change range: c (followed by motion to end of range)
   change to end of line: C
   undo last action: u
   undo all actions on current line: U
   redo last action: <ctrl>r
line formatting
   join lines: J
   reformat range to current textwidth: gq (followed by motion to end of range)
   define macro: q<letter for macro>
   replay macro: @<letter for macro>


   set marker: m<marker letter>
visual select (type again to cancel)
   visual select: v (followed by motion to end of range)
   line-mode visual select: V (followed by motion to end of range)
   column-mode visual select: <ctrl>v (followed by motion to end of range)


help :help
write file :w (use :w! to force a write when you get a warning)
quit :q (use :q! to force a quit when you get a warning)
revert to saved :e!
edit another file :e <filename>
syntax highlighting :syntax on (or "off" to disable)
set options :set <option> (use ":set all" to see list of available options)
horizontally split window :sp
vertically split window :vsp
substitute :<range> s/<search pattern>/<replacement text>/


'a,'z  = from marker a to marker z
.,$ = from current line to last line
1,. = from first line to last line
%  = whole file (short for "1,$")


enable paste mode (turn off default settings that make pasting act weird) :set paste
show command being constructed :set showcmd
show cursor line & column :set ruler
number lines :set number
ignore case on searches :set ignorecase (or "ic")
automatically break long lines :set textwidth=80 (or "tw")
convert from dos line-endings :set fileformat=unix (then save the file)