VI Cheetsheet

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This document is a vi cheat sheet, designed to be kept nearby while using the vi editor. In general, vi commands follow the convention of "one from column A and one from column B", using the two tables below, Operators and Operands, as columns A and B.

Numeric arguments may prefix any operator; the command is repeated the given number of times or until it fails. Numeric arguments prefixing an operand execute the operand the given number of times, effectively just moving the cursor. (Some versions of vi, such as that provided with AIX 5L, don't respond properly to numeric prefixes in front of some operands such as the / string search operand.)

Operators Description
d operand delete the operand into the (delete) buffer
p paste the contents of the (delete) buffer after the cursor
y operand yank the operand into the (delete) buffer
i operand inserts the operand (before current character)
a operand appends the operand (insert after current character)
r operand replaces current character with operand
s operand substitute the operand with typed-in text
c operand change the operand to typed-in text
! operand pass the operand to a (Unix) shell as standard input;
standard output replaces the operand.
Common Macros Description
I insert at beginning of line (same as ^i)
A append at end of line (same as $a)
D delete to end of line (same as d$)
C change to end of line (same as c$)
x delete one character (same as dl)
ZZ save and exit
:w filename save as filename without exiting
:q! quit immediately (without save)
R enter replace (overstrike) mode
o open line below current line
O open line above current line
" n n is 0-9: delete buffers
" x x is lowercase a-z: replace user buffer
" x x is uppercase A-Z: append to user buffer
. perform last change again
u undo last change
U undo all changes to current line
Operands Description
h j k l left, down, up, right; one character/line at a time
w b e next word, back word, end of word
W B E (same as above, but ignores punctuation)
/string search for string (use ? for reverse search)
n search for string again (see /, above)
% find matching ( ), { }, or [ ]
( ) beginning of current/previous sentence and beginning of next sentence
{ } beginning of current/previous paragraph (two adjacent newlines) and beginning of next paragraph (see also set paragraphs)
[[ ]] beginning of current/previous section and beginning of next section (mostly user-defined; see also set sections)
line G goto particular line number (defaults to end-of-file)
0 ^ $ move to column 0, move to first non-whitespace, move to end of line
f x forward to character x on same line (inclusive)
t x to character x on same line (not inclusive)
; last f or t again in the same direction
, last f or t again in the opposite direction
m x set mark x at current position
' x move to line containing mark x
` x move to exact position of mark x
'' move to line of last jump point
`` move to exact position of last jump point

Interesting examples of numeric prefixes would be 36i-*<ESC>, 8i123456789-<ESC>, and 20r_.

Ex (colon-mode) commands

In the following commands, file may be either a filename, or a shell command if prefixed with !. Filenames are globbed by the shell before vi uses them (shell wildcards are processed before the filenames are used). Address ranges may be used immediately after the colon in the commands below. Example address ranges are:

Range Description
1,$ From line 1 to the end of the file.
10,20 From line 10 to line 20, inclusive.
.,.+10 From the current line to current line + 10 (11 lines total).
'a,'d From the line containing mark a to the line containing mark d.
/from/,/to/ From the line containing "from" to the line containing "to", inclusive.
Commands which change the file being edited.
:e filename Change from the current file being edited to filename. "%" means current file, and "#" means alternate file.
Use :e # to edit the file most recently edited during the same session.
:n [filename(s)] Edits the next file from the command line. With optional list of filenames, changes command parameters and edits the first file in the list. Filenames are passed to the shell for wildcard substitution. Also consider command substitution:
:n `grep -l pattern *.c`
:args Lists the files from the command line (possibly as modified by :n, above).
:rew Restarts editing at the first filename from the command line.
Commands which modify the text buffer or disk file being edited.
:g/RE/cmd Globally search for regular expression and execute cmd for each line containing the pattern.
:s/RE/string/opt Search-and-replace; string is the replacement. Use opt to specify options c (confirm), g (globally on each line), and p (print after making change).
:w file Write the contents of the buffer to file. If file starts with an exclamation mark, the filename is interpreted as a shell command instead, and the buffer is piped into the command as stdin.
:r file Reads the contents of the file into the current buffer. If file starts with an exclamation mark, the filename is interpreted as a shell command instead, and the stdout of the command is read into the buffer.
These commands control the environment of the vi session.
:set opt Turns on boolean option opt.
:set noopt Turns off boolean option opt.
example: :set number and :set nonumber to turn on/off line numbering
:set opt=val Sets option opt to val.
:set opt? Queries the setting of option opt.
Miscellaneous commands.
:abbr string phrase Creates abbreviation string for the phrase phrase. Abbreviations are replaced immediately as soon as recognized during text or command input. Use :unab string to remove an abbreviation.
:map key string Creates a mapping from key to string. This is different from an abbreviation in two ways: abbreviations are recognized as complete units only (for example, a word with surrounding whitespace) while mappings are based strictly on keystrokes, and mappings can apply to function keys by using a pound-sign followed by the function key number, i.e. #8 would map function key 8. If the terminal doesn't have an <F8> key, the mapping can be invoked by typing "#8" directly (doesn't work in the AIX 5L version of vi).
Here is an example of what my .exrc startup file in my home directory looks like:

set report=1 shiftwidth=4 tabstop=8 wrapmargin=10
set ai bf exrc magic nomesg modelines showmode nowrapscan
map! #1 `x=%; echo ${x\%/*}/

Some other command settings are ignorecase (ic), autowrite (aw), and showmatch (sm).

To comment out blocks in vim:[edit | edit source]

  • press Esc (to leave editing or other mode)
  • hit ctrl+v (visual block mode)
  • use the up/down arrow keys to select lines you want (it won't highlight everything - it's OK!)
  • Shift+i (capital I)
  • insert the text you want, e.g. '# '
  • press Esc

Give it a second to work.

To uncomment blocks in vim:[edit | edit source]

  • press Esc (to leave editing or other mode)
  • hit ctrl+v (visual block mode)
  • use the up/down arrow keys to select the lines to uncomment.
  • If you want to select multiple characters, use one or combine these methods:
    • use the left/right arrow keys to select more text
    • to select chunks of text use shift + left/right arrow key
    • you can repeatedly push the delete keys below, like a regular delete button
  • press d or x to delete characters, repeatedly if necessary
  • press Esc

Give it a second to work.

Edit multiple files:[edit | edit source]

  • press Esc (to leave editing or other mode)
  • then use one of the following sequences
  • type : t a b e (e for edit), [space] and then start typing the /path/to/filename
  • type : t a b n (n for next), to switch to the next buffer
  • type : t a b p (p for previous), to switch to the previous buffer
  • You can also type :args to get a list of the open buffers

Move everything flush to the left[edit | edit source]


: colon mode
% the current buffer
l 'left' command
e 'end' of document

Or, in visual mode, you can use the < key to move a selection left.

More VIM Cheat Sheets[edit | edit source]