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What is vim?

Historically, there are two widely used text editors among Unix users: vi and emacs.

  • vim is the most recent version of vi
  • vim stands for vi improved
  • vim and emacs tend to have long arguments about which is better.
    • These arguments are pointless and tedious.
    • They are both good; they just have different design tradeoffs.

If you want to learn about emacs instead of vim, visit the Emacs Page on this website. Since this page is about vim, we won’t mention emacs further.

Why learn vim?

Many computing professionals consider at least basic knowledge of vim to be a necessary “survival skill” when dealing with computing systems:

  • vim can be used to make quick changes to files in plain old terminal windows
  • vim is available, by default, on many computer systems

When you are dealing with debugging a problem on a backend system in a real world scenario, that system may or may not have your “favorite editor” installed on it. But it probably will have vim.

The six most important things to know how to do in vim

Quick Reference Guides

  • Vim wiki
  • Vim tutorial

How To

  • Line-numbers on the side: :set nu

What do :w, :wq, and :wq! mean?

  • :w means “write”. Hit “Escape” and type in the character sequence to write your edits.
  • :wq means “write and quit”. Hit “Escape” and type in the character sequence to write and quit from the Vim environment.
  • :q! means “quit without saving”.

And a bonus:

  • :u means “undo”.

Finding and Replacing

  • To go to a specific line number: :[LINE_NUMBER]
    • For instance, if I was trying to go to line 181 in a file, I would enter :181
  • To search for a character string: /[STRING]
    • Note that you may need to use the escape character \ before any special characters
  • To search/replace (e.g. change old to new):
    • To replace the first encountered instance of a string: :%s/old/new/
    • To replace all instances of a string: :%s/old/new/g

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