Assorted commands & settings

These are features of Vim which I use but haven’t yet organised into sections or don’t use frequently enough to write about.


ctrl o		= jumplist skip foward
ctrl i		= jumplist skip backwards
`*`			= next instace of word under cursor
`#`			= prevous instance of word under cursor
:%y			= yank whole file (works better than my old vGy technique)
ctrl g		= filename
ctrl a		= decrease number under cursor (works in visual selections too)
ctrl x		= increase number under cursor (works in visual selections too)
:%s/foo/bar/g	= Replace foo with bar on all lines
:s/foo/bar/g	= Replace foo with bar on this line only


set clipboard=unnamedplus	= sync system clipboard with yank register
set incsearch			= jump to search word as you type
set linebreak			= don't split long words across two lines

Finding files

Although there are plenty of plugins available to help when finding files I like to keep things stock so mostly use the :tabfind command to find a file and have it open in a new tab. Or if you want to have the file open in the current tab use the :find command instead.

:tabfind = Find file and open in a new tab
:find = Find file and open in current window
:fin = Shorthand for the :find command

Include subfolders when finding files

By default Vim’s find and tabfind commands won’t scan for files recursively so you’ll probably want to change this by adding a couple of asterisks to the path setting.

" Allows Vim's find and tabfind command to look in subfolders
set path=$PWD/** 

Include parent directory when finding files

Want to expand your find to look in the parent directory? Just pass in the path into the find command with a good old ../. And if you need to look in subdirectories too use a double asterisk.

"" Include the parent directory when finding files
:find ../footer

"" Include the parent directory and child folders when finding files
:find ../**/footer

Wildmenu for displaying results

Wildmenu is a built in Vim option which displays search results in a horizontal bar which you can then tab through to find the result you want. You’ll probably also want to use the wildignorecase option to make the search case insensitive.

"" Display find results in a horizontal menu format
set wildmenu

"" Ignore case when finding files
set wildignorecase

Excluding directories from find

You’ll probably have some directories which you never want to look in such as node_modules or log etc. You can easily ignore such paths with the wildignore setting.

"" Ignoring unwanted paths when finding files
set wildignore+=**/tmp/**
set wildignore+=**/node_modules/**
set wildignore+=**/_site/**

Keyboard shortcut for tabfind

Finding a file in Vim and having it open in a new tab is such a common use case for me that I have a keyboard shortcut set up for it in my vimrc file. It lets you hit ctrl+f while in normal mode to start looking for a file.

"" Keyboard shortcut for finding files and opening in new tab
nnoremap <C-f> :tabfind<space>


First you’ll want to set the folding method. There are several options for this but the one you’ll likely want to use is syntax (note that the syntax setting will have to be set for this folding method to work). Another potentially useful folding method is indent.

:set foldmethod=syntax

Now you can use the following commands in normal mode to control your folds:

Toggle folds

### A = toggle
za	= toggle fold at cursor
zA	= toggle all folds in document (not very useful)

Open and close folds

## O and C = Open and Close
zo	= open fold at cursor
zc	= close fold at cursor
zO	= open fold at cursor (including child folds)
zC	= close fold at cursor (including child folds - can't get this to work)

Reduce and more folds

## R and M = Reduce and More (cursor position not relevant)
zr	= open next level of folds in the document
zm	= close next level of folds in document
zR	= open all folds in the document
zM	= close all folds in the document


Convert spaces into tabs

" Use tabs for indentation (and convert existing indents to tabs)
:set noet \| retab! 2 \| :set ts=4 sw=4 <CR>

" Use tabs for indentation (but don't convert existing indents)
:set noet ts=4 sw=4 <CR>

Convert tabs into spaces

" Use 2 spaces for indentation
:set et ts=2 sw=2 <CR>

" Use 2 spaces for indentation (and convert existing indents to spaces)
:set et ts=2 sw=2 \| retab <CR>

If you find yourself converting spaces into tabs often then you might like to set up a remap in your vimrc file. The following command will convert your document from spaces into tabs and set Vim to use tabs from now on. To use these remaps go into normal mode then type ,idt to “indent tab” to start using tabs for indentation, or type ,idtc to “indent tab convert” to use tabs and convert the existing indents to tabs. Same deal for spaces except use ,ids and idsc.

" Indentation shortcuts

" Use tabs for indentation (but don't convert existing indents)
noremap ,idt :set noet ts=4 sw=4 <CR>

" Use tabs for indentation (and convert exsting indents to tabs)
noremap ,idtc :set noet \| retab! 2 \| :set ts=4 sw=4 <CR>

" Use 2 spaces for indentation (but don't convert existing indents)
noremap ,ids :set et ts=2 sw=2 <CR>

" Use 2 spaces for indentation (and convert existing indents to spaces)
noremap ,idsc :set et ts=2 sw=2 \| retab <CR>

Default options for your vimrc

I like all my new documents use tabs for indentation, for each tab to be 4 spaces wide, and to enable Vim’s auto and smart indentation features. The following block added to my vimrc file gets all that done.

" Indentation default settings
set ai " use autoindentation
set si " use smart indentation
set noet " use tabs instead of spaces
set ts=4 " tabs should be 4 spaces long
set sw=4 " autoindent width should be 4 spaces long

Indentation options explained

Vim has a whole bunch of options and commands relating to indentation which can be confusing at first because you often need to use a combination of these settings to make indentation work how you want it to. There might be more options available but these are the ones I used to get my indentation game figured out.

Working with Windows

Windows have advantages over tabs (at least, as far as I’ve read they do) but I’m yet to fully appreciate them and prefer to use tabs instead. In fact the only real time I have to use these Vim window commands is when I accidentally create a new window and need to close it.

Splitting and moving around windows

"" split horizontal
ctrl+w s		

"" split vertical
ctrl+w v

"" move around your splits
ctrl+w h,j,k,l

"" close split
ctrl+w c

Maximising windows

One of the main reasons I choose Tmux over Vim windows is because I often want to ‘maximise’ the file I’m working on and as far as I know Vim windows aren’t really set up to do that. The only Vim command I can find to full screen a window also closes all the other windows which is something I rarely want to happen.

"" maximise window (but closes all other windows)

"" maximise vertical

"" maximise horizontal

"" equalize width or height of windows

The power of the g

The g key does all sorts of useful things in Vim, here are some of the commonly used ones. If you’re hungry for more you can see a list of all of them use :help g.

Assorted g commands

"" select whatever you had previously selected

"" find definition of word under cursor

"" open this file or folder

"" move cursor up or down ignoring the text object
gj or gk

"" move cursor start or end ignoring the text object
g$ or g0

"" run last substition command on whole document

Note that the g is also used for capitalization and word wrap formatting which have their own sections in this document.

Capitalization & Lowercase

There is a quick way of doing this using tilde and a more powerful way using g with either U (for capitalizing) or u (for lowercasing). The ‘g’ method works with the standard text objects such as word, paragraph, etc.

Toggle caps

"" toggle caps under cursor (or on selected text)

"" current line toggle caps


To capitalize text in Vim use the U key. It works with the standard text objects:

"" current line uppercase

"" around word uppercase

"" 4 words uppercase

"" uppercase to '>'

"" lowercase to end of document


Lowercasing in Vim works in the same way as capitalization except it uses a lowercase u:

"" current line lowercase

"" around word lowercase

"" 4 words lowercase

"" lower to '>'

"" lowercase to end of document

Text Width & Wordwrap

You can set your files to be a maximum of 80 characters wide using Vim’s textwidth setting. This will put a carriage return in for you once you get to the end of the line.

"" Auto wrap lines to 80 characters
set textwidth=80

"" Auto wrap lines to 80 characters (shorthand version)
set tw=80

Reformatting text to 80 characters

This works fine when you’re typing but what if you paste in a long string of text from your browser? Or what if you find some delinquent developer has used a text width other than the one which we decided was best over 90 years ago? Thankfully you can easily reformat blocks of text using gq command.

"" Reformat a long line of text to 80 characters wide

Note that typing the gq command on its own is not enough, you need another keystroke to tell Vim what object it should reformat. I tend to use q because it’s the most convenient but $ or j would also work.

Showing the 80 character limit

If you’re really serious about sticking to that 80 character limit then you might like to try using the colorcolumn setting to show a vertical bar showing where the limit is.

"" Show vertical bar at 80 characters
set colorcolumn=80

"" Show vertical bar at 80 characters (short hand)
set cc=80

"" Remove vertical bar
set cc=0

"" Set color of the vertical bar
highlight ColorColumn ctermbg=blue

Spell Checker

Vim has a built in spell checker which you can enable and disable with a simple set spell command.

"" Enable spelling
set spell

"" Disable spelling
set nospell

Jumping to next/previous typo

All the typos will now be highlighted and you can now jump back and forth through them with [s and ]s.

"" Jump to next typo

"" Jump to previous typo

Adding words to the dictionary

If Vim considers a word to be a typo but actually it’s correct (this usually happens to me if I type brand names) then you can add the word under the cursor to Vim’s dictionary with zg or remove it with zw.

"" Add word under cursor to the dictionary

"" Remove word under cursor from dictionary

Show a list of suggested corrections

Don’t know how to spell a particular word? Hit z= and Vim will show you a numbered list of suggestions. Find the one you want, type in the number, hit enter and it’ll be corrected for you. If there aren’t any correct suggestions then just hit enter.

"" Show list of suggestions

Cut, Copy & Paste


To cut a section of text in Vim we use d which is actually listed as the ‘delete’ command, but unlike the hitting the ‘delete’ key on your keyboard Vim will store the given text in a clipboard ready to be pasted out.

"" Cut a whole line

"" Cut around the current word

"" Cut to end of the line


Copy works pretty much the same as cut except it uses the y key and is known as ‘yank’ instead of copy.

"" Yank (aka copy) the whole line

"" Yank (aka copy) around the current world

"" Yank (aka copy) to end of the line

"" Yank (aka copy) around sentence

"" Yank (aka copy) inside quote marks


Paste the contents of the clipboard with p. You can also use P to paste the contents of the clipboard after the cursor.

"" Paste after cursor

"" Paste before cursor

Using the multiple clipboards

One of the major differences between cut, copy, and paste in Vim compared to a typical editor is that Vim has multiple clipboards so you can cut or copy several different blocks of text and have them all available simultaneously. There are 26 extra clipboards which can be assigned to letters a-z which you can access using the " key.

"" Yank (aka copy) line to clipboard a

"" Paste from clipboard a

"" Cut word to clipboard b

"" Paste from clipboard b

Search / Find in File

To find an occurrence of text in a file use / for searching forwards or ? for searching backwards. This command is the equivalent of using the ‘Ctrl f’ feature in your browser or text editor.

"" Search forwards

"" Search backwards

Jumping to next/previous result

Once you’ve performed your search you can cycle through each of the matches using n (for the next result) and N (for the previous result).

"" Jump to next search result

"" Jump to previous search result

Escaping special characters

If you need to search for special characters you’ll have to escape them with a back slash.

"" Escape special characters with back slash

Text Objects

Lets you manipulate (or in the Vim world the correct word would be ‘operate’) in and around blocks of text.

Word = w

Unlike the rest of the text operators here, you can use it without an inside/around option.

# can be used without inside/around
dw = delete word
yw = yank word

# used with inside/around
ciw = change inside word
yiw = yank inside word

Sentence = s

Defined by a string of characters appended by a full stop, must be used with an inside/around option. This one only really works if the text on the previous line is also a setence. Try deleting the first sentence in this paragraph and it’ll delete the heading too as it is counted as part of the sentence.

Paragraph = p

Defined by a line break, even if the last sentence of the paragraph has no full stop.

Special characters = ([{‘”<`

Targets text within the given characters. Cursor must be on the same line and in front of the target.

Block parentheses = b

Limited use when it comes to Ruby and React, but ideal for vanilla Javascript.

Block curly brackets = B

Same as above but targets contents of curly brackets.

Tag = t

Targets the contents of an XML tag.