What is Vim? – A Simple Beginner’s Guide


Fiona O’Connell


2019 June 3rd

what is vim

For developers, choosing a text editor for their projects, there are plenty of options to pick. Many of them choose to go with Vim.

Vim is a text editor, found in practically every operating system since the 90s - and it's quite a popular choice for those looking for a Nano or Notepad alternative.

Why is that, though? What is Vim, its main features, and should you even use it?

Let's have a look at the core principles Vim follows and find out more about them:

Vim is absolutely everywhere

Most Linux distributions already have Vim installed: while many other editors may or may not be available, Vim is almost guaranteed to be there.

This means that with general knowledge of Vim, you will be able to make edits to more or less any available operating system.

Vim is also fully cross-platform. It's available for Linux, Windows, and Mac OS - and for plenty of others. This means that if you work with several machines, you will be able to keep using the same editor in all of them. And that editor will be Vim.

Being available on so many platforms and operating systems, Vim is a massively popular, well-known text editor. That popularity, however, is also used for good. Every time users start Vim, they see a prompt to donate to ICCF Holland. That is a charity project, founded by Vim's creator Bram Moolenaar, and aiming to help AIDS victims in the poorest areas of Uganda.

As Vim is everywhere, it's very refreshing to see them being socially responsible and using this popularity for good.

Vim = super efficiency

Back on the technical side of things - we need to talk about efficiency.

Calling Vim efficient would be a massive, horrible understatement. From the ground up, this editor has been built to make everything as simple as it can possibly be.

The concept of this editor lies in the idea that everything can be done using your keyboard. You can do pretty much any task without touching your mouse - once.

At first, this may seem like a very odd, and unproductive idea. But in reality, it makes total sense. An experienced user can type in a speed simple mouse cursor could never catch.

You can edit text as quickly as you can think and type: therefore, Vim is a perfect tool for increased efficiency.

All that efficiency, however, needs to be learned.

Vim is like a separate language

In order to make unlock the ultimate Vim efficiency, you have to learn to master it. Luckily, Vim commands can be easily recalled and remember.

Odd command combos consisting of seemingly impossible codes can actually do a lot - with very few keystrokes.

Learning Vim commands is like learning a separate language. Tricky at first, but once you get the basics and see how things work, everything makes so much sense.

Many other editors employ things like various keyboard shortcuts. Ctrl+Shift+7 or Alt+B+7 may be pretty alright in some cases. But they're nowhere close the ingenuity that is Vim commands.

You see, in Vim, you string commands together - like they're words in sentence. The basic commands are simple. Here's a few, for example:

Input Command
d delete
r replace
y yank (delete and copy)
p paste

Then, you can combine commands with objects, therefore creating strings. Using numbers and other values helps to make seriously complex commands with just a few strokes. Here's one:


This means "delete 5 words". It's a complex task that can be triggered with just 3 buttons!

And once you learn how these commands work together, you can do a lot - easily. You can also combine and make new shortcuts, so repeating tasks can be completed even more quickly.

So really, learning to use Vim is like teaching yourself a whole new language. Which brings us to our next point...

Using Vim is difficult, but rewarding

In the developer world, Vim is both an editor of choice, and a running gag. A steep learning curve is Vim's well-known quirk.

And it's fully deserved - at first, even doing the most basic tasks can turn out to be very tedious.

(For those wondering, it's :wq <enter> and :q <enter> if you don't want to save).

Vim: Conclusion

As you can see, it may take a lot of time for you to learn both the basics and more advanced things. Once you do, however, you will be rewarded with brilliant efficiency. And efficiency is the key to online business success everywhere.

Starting from fast servers in web hosting, going to brilliant user experience, all the way to simple, more intuitive codings. The more streamlined things are, the better the end product may be.

At some point of using Vim, you'll know it so well, even the most difficult combinations of tasks could be done in a few seconds of typing.

Now add that to the fact you can use it on pretty much any operating system on any platform. Can you already see a picture emerging?

With all of those things together, it may mean that Vim may be the only text editor tool you will ever need. And that's why it's brilliant. It's complex, unusual, but always available and very rewarding. Vim is a text editor definitely worth checking out.

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