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Vim (Vi improved) is a text editor based on the vi text editor. It can be used from the command-line or as a standalone application with a graphical user interface.

Vim should not be confused with Neovim, a similar program which may be used in its place.

See also
The Vi article provides general information on vi-like editors. See the Vim guide for an introductory tutorial on vi-like editor usage. See the text editor article for general information on installing and configuring text editors in Gentoo.


USE flags

USE flags for app-editors/vim Vim, an improved vi-style text editor

X Link console vim against X11 libraries to enable title and clipboard features in xterm
acl Add support for Access Control Lists
crypt Use dev-libs/libsodium for crypto support
cscope Enable cscope interface
debug Enable extra debug codepaths, like asserts and extra output. If you want to get meaningful backtraces see
gpm Add support for sys-libs/gpm (Console-based mouse driver)
lua Enable Lua scripting support
minimal Install a very minimal build (disables, for example, plugins, fonts, most drivers, non-critical features)
nls Add Native Language Support (using gettextGNU locale utilities)
perl Add optional support/bindings for the Perl language
python Add optional support/bindings for the Python language
racket Enable support for Scheme using dev-scheme/racket
ruby Add support/bindings for the Ruby language
selinux !!internal use only!! Security Enhanced Linux support, this must be set by the selinux profile or breakage will occur
sound Enable sound support
tcl Add support the Tcl language
terminal Enable terminal emulation support
vim-pager Install vimpager and vimmanpager links


If X Window System support is not needed, install app-editors/vim:

root #emerge --ask app-editors/vim

Additional software


To install Vim with both the ncurses-based interface (/usr/bin/vim) as well as the graphical interface (for the X Window System - /usr/bin/gvim), install the app-editors/gvim package:

root #emerge --ask app-editors/gvim


Vim has support for packages, which provide a native mechanism to extend functionality. Read the built-in packages documentation for more information: :help packages


The category app-vim provides a lot of additional syntax definitions, plugins and other Vim related stuff.

Use emerge or eix to get an overview of available packages in the app-vim category:

user $emerge --search "%@^app-vim"
user $eix -cC app-vim

Not all Vim plugins will be available in the Gentoo repository. Vim now includes native packages, as a way to install plugins, and there are also several plugin managers for Vim.



Vim can be configured on a per-user basis or through a system-wide configuration file:

  • /etc/vim/vimrc - The system wide (global) settings file.
  • ~/.vimrc - The user-specific (local) configuration file. The tilde (~) means it is in the user's home directory.
  • ~/.vim/pack/foo - Location where plugins are installed (vim 8 and higher).[1] Substitute foo for the name of each plugin.

Color schemes

About a dozen color schemes are shipped with the base Vim package. They can be listed in last line mode by typing colorscheme, then pressing either Ctrl+d or pressing the Tab key twice:

blue       darkblue   default    delek      desert     elflord    evening    industry   koehler    morning    murphy     pablo      peachpuff  ron        shine      slate      torte      zellner

They can be changed in Vim by using the colorscheme (alternatively use colo) command while in last line mode:

:colorscheme peachpuff

Color schemes can be permanently applied in the .vimrc file:

FILE ~/.vimrc
colorscheme peachpuff
syntax on

The first line sets the default color scheme while the last line activates the color scheme.

Selecting vi editor and system default editor

If Vim - and only Vim - is installed, the vi command should launch Vim. If other vi-like editors are installed, eselect may be used to choose which editor the vi command launches.

The text editor article may also be of interest for setting a system default editor, if Vim is to be set as the default.



From the command line:

user $vim --help
vim --help
VIM - Vi IMproved 8.2 (2019 Dec 12, compiled Nov 26 2021 11:56:27)
Usage: vim [arguments] [file ..]       edit specified file(s)
   or: vim [arguments] -               read text from stdin
   or: vim [arguments] -t tag          edit file where tag is defined
   or: vim [arguments] -q [errorfile]  edit file with first error
   --			Only file names after this
   -v			Vi mode (like "vi")
   -e			Ex mode (like "ex")
   -E			Improved Ex mode
   -s			Silent (batch) mode (only for "ex")
   -d			Diff mode (like "vimdiff")
   -y			Easy mode (like "evim", modeless)
   -R			Readonly mode (like "view")
   -Z			Restricted mode (like "rvim")
   -m			Modifications (writing files) not allowed
   -M			Modifications in text not allowed
   -b			Binary mode
   -l			Lisp mode
   -C			Compatible with Vi: 'compatible'
   -N			Not fully Vi compatible: 'nocompatible'
   -V[N][fname]		Be verbose [level N] [log messages to fname]
   -D			Debugging mode
   -n			No swap file, use memory only
   -r			List swap files and exit
   -r (with file name)	Recover crashed session
   -L			Same as -r
   -A			Start in Arabic mode
   -H			Start in Hebrew mode
   -T <terminal>	Set terminal type to <terminal>
   --not-a-term		Skip warning for input/output not being a terminal
   --ttyfail		Exit if input or output is not a terminal
   -u <vimrc>		Use <vimrc> instead of any .vimrc
   --noplugin		Don't load plugin scripts
   -p[N]		Open N tab pages (default: one for each file)
   -o[N]		Open N windows (default: one for each file)
   -O[N]		Like -o but split vertically
   +			Start at end of file
   +<lnum>		Start at line <lnum>
   --cmd <command>	Execute <command> before loading any vimrc file
   -c <command>		Execute <command> after loading the first file
   -S <session>		Source file <session> after loading the first file
   -s <scriptin>	Read Normal mode commands from file <scriptin>
   -w <scriptout>	Append all typed commands to file <scriptout>
   -W <scriptout>	Write all typed commands to file <scriptout>
   -x			Edit encrypted files
   --startuptime <file>	Write startup timing messages to <file>
   -i <viminfo>		Use <viminfo> instead of .viminfo
   --clean		'nocompatible', Vim defaults, no plugins, no viminfo
   -h  or  --help	Print Help (this message) and exit
   --version		Print version information and exit

The vi command may also be used to launch Vim, if so configured.

Specify a name, to open an existing file, or to create a new one:

user $vim <filename>


Vim has a built-in tutorial which should require around 30 minutes to go through. Start it using the vimtutor command:

user $vimtutor

Tips and tricks

Using Vim like ex or ed from the command line

It is possible to use Vim for one-liners — commands that can be used in scripts or on the command-line to make changes in an unattended manner.

For instance, the following command adds # to the beginning of each line in the file.txt file:

user $vim -c ":%s/^/#/g" -c ":x" file.txt

What happens is that Vim interprets the passed on commands (through the -c option). The first command is Vim's substitution command (which is very similar to sed's), the second one is Vim's instruction to save and exit the editor.

Change file encoding

To change the file encoding of a file to UTF-8, use the following command (in last line mode):

:e ++enc=utf8

As shown in the previous trick, it is possible to do this from the command line as well:

user $vim -c ":wq! ++enc=utf8" file.txt


I'm trapped in vim!

For someone entering vim without first having learned how to use it, it may not be obvious how to quit.

Press esc several times, then :, q, enter. To quit without saving, press esc several times, then :, q, !, enter.

If several files are open, try pressing esc several times, then :, q, a, enter. To quit without saving, press esc several times, then :, q, a, !, enter.

If this doesn't help, and desperate measures are needed, something like killall vim may be a last ditch solution (from another terminal). Beware that this will terminate all the vim sessions for a user, without saving. If run as root, such a command will terminate all vim sessions for all users on the system.


user $vim foobar
E1187: Failed to source defaults.vim
Press ENTER or type command to continue

Seems solved by destabilize 8.2.4328.

See also

External resources