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Learn Vim Progressively (1)

TL;DRYou want to teach yourself vim (the best text editor known to human kind) in the fastest way possible. This is my way of doing it. You start by learning the minimal to survive, then you integrate all the tricks slowly.

Vim the Six Billion Dollar editor

Better, Stronger, Faster.

Learn vim and it will be your last text editor. There isn’t any better text editor that I know of. It is hard to learn, but incredible to use.

I suggest you teach yourself Vim in 4 steps:

  1. Survive

  2. Feel comfortable

  3. Feel Better, Stronger, Faster

  4. Use superpowers of vim

By the end of this journey, you’ll become a vim superstar.

But before we start, just a warning. Learning vim will be painful at first. It will take time. It will be a lot like playing a musical instrument. Don’t expect to be more efficient with vim than with another editor in less than 3 days. In fact it will certainly take 2 weeks instead of 3 days.

1st Level – Survive

  1. Install vim

  2. Launch vim

  3. DO NOTHING! Read.

In a standard editor, typing on the keyboard is enough to write something and see it on the screen. Not this time. Vim is in Normalmode. Let’s go to Insert mode. Type the letter i.

You should feel a bit better. You can type letters like in a standard editor. To get back to Normal mode just press the ESC key.

You now know how to switch between Insert and Normal mode. And now, here are the commands that you need in order to survive inNormal mode:

  • i → Insert mode. Type ESC to return to Normal mode.

  • x → Delete the char under the cursor

  • :wq → Save and Quit (:w save, :q quit)

  • dd → Delete (and copy) the current line

  • p → Paste


  • hjkl (highly recommended but not mandatory) → basic cursor move (←↓↑→). Hint: j looks like a down arrow.

  • :help → Show help about . You can use :help without a  to get general help.

Only 5 commands. That is all you need to get started. Once these command start to become natural (maybe after a day or so), you should move on to level 2.

But first, just a little remark about Normal mode. In standard editors, to copy you have to use the Ctrl key (Ctrl-c generally). In fact, when you press Ctrl, it is as if all of your keys change meaning. Using vim in normal mode is a bit like having the editor automatically press the Ctrl key for you.

A last word about notations:

  • instead of writing Ctrl-λ, I’ll write .

  • commands starting with : end with . For example, when I write :q, I mean :q.

2nd Level – Feel comfortable

You know the commands required for survival. It’s time to learn a few more commands. These are my suggestions:

  1. Insert mode variations:

    • a → insert after the cursor

    • o → insert a new line after the current one

    • O → insert a new line before the current one

    • cw → replace from the cursor to the end of the word

  2. Basic moves

    • 0 → go to the first column

    • ^ → go to the first non-blank character of the line

    • $ → go to the end of line

    • g_ → go to the last non-blank character of line

    • /pattern → search for pattern

  3. Copy/Paste

    • P → paste before, remember p is paste after current position.

    • yy → copy the current line, easier but equivalent to ddP

  4. Undo/Redo

    • u → undo

    •  → redo

  5. Load/Save/Quit/Change File (Buffer)

    • :e → open

    • :w → save

    • :saveas → save to 

    • :xZZ or :wq → save and quit (:x only save if necessary)

    • :q! → quit without saving, also: :qa! to quit even if there are modified hidden buffers.

    • :bn (resp. :bp) → show next (resp. previous) file (buffer)

Take the time to learn all of these command. Once done, you should be able to do every thing you are able to do in other editors. You may still feel a bit awkward. But follow me to the next level and you’ll see why vim is worth the extra work.



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