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Vim logo  MacVim icon
Vim running in a terminal emulator
Original author(s) Bram Moolenaar
Initial release 1991, 25–26 years ago
Stable release 8.0.0022 (3 October 2016; 3 months ago (2016-10-03)) [±]
Preview release 7.4b.000 (28 July 2013; 3 years ago (2013-07-28)) [±]
Written in C and Vim script
Platform Cross-platform,including Unix, Linux and Microsoft Windows
Available in English, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Persian, Polish, Russian, Spanish[1]
Type Text editor
License Free software, charityware

Vim is a text editor originally released by Bram Moolenaar in 1991 for the Amiga computer (based on an earlier editor, Stevie, for the Atari ST, created by Tim Thompson, Tony Andrews and G.R. (Fred) Walter). The name "Vim" is an acronym for "Vi IMproved"[2] because Vim is an extended version of the vi editor, with many additional features designed to be helpful in editing program source code (originally, the acronym stood for "Vi IMitation", but that was quickly changed once Vim's feature set surpassed that of vi).[3]

Although Vim was originally released for the Amiga, Vim has since been developed to be cross-platform, supporting many other platforms. It is the most popular editor amongst Linux Journal readers.[4]

Vim is free and open source software and is released under a license which includes some charityware clauses, encouraging users who enjoy the software to consider donating to children in Uganda.[5] The license is compatible with the GNU General Public License.


The first public release of Vim came in November 1991 when Bram Moolenaar began distributing his vi clone for the Amiga platform. When Bram received his first Amiga he quickly realized that it lacked a number of editor choices including vi which he was familiar with using. He began to use the simple vi clone Stevie, a open licensed vi implementation created in 1987 by Tim Thompson and later maintained by Tony Andrews until 1990. Bram saw that Stevie lacked a number of vi commands and had a number of issues. But because the code was available and free he was able to branch it as a starting point for Vim, which during its first release stood for "Vi-IMitation".

Over the next year Bram added many of the missing features from vi as he resolved the bug issues he found in the code base. He also began adding new useful commands such as multi-level undo, test formatting, and multiple windows. Finally, for the next release, Bram ported the entire code base so that it would run on Unix as well as Amiga. In 1992 this new version, which he dubbed "Vi-Improved", was released and Vim went from being a vi clone to a vi competitor. While the software was designed to be an improvement over the traditional vi editor, one of Bram's stated goals with Vim is to keep it as compatible with vi as possible while still providing the improvements needed to make it a marketable piece of software.

In 1998 the fifth version of Vim was released with a new feature which is one of the most referenced features in the software, scripting. This feature allows for users to easily customize their Vim experience to meet their own specific needs. The vim homepage has added functionality which allows users to share their Vim scripts with other users. This section of the Vim homepage holds more than 3000 user created scripts which can be browsed or searched for, downloaded, and quickly installed into a Vim implementation. With the release of the current stable version of Vim, 7.3, on August 15, 2010, the software has provided hundreds of improvements over the base vi to its users over its nearly 20 year history.


Whereas vi was originally available only on Unix operating systems, Vim has been ported to numerous operating systems including AmigaOS (the initial target platform), Atari MiNT, BeOS, MS-DOS, Microsoft Windows 95/98/Me/NT/2000/XP/Server 2003/Vista/Server 2008/Windows 7, IBM OS/2 and OS/390, MorphOS, OpenVMS, QNX, RISC OS, Unix, Linux, BSD, and Mac OS.[6] In addition, Vim is shipped with every copy of Apple Mac OS X.[7]

Release history[edit]

Date Version Changes and additions
June, 1987 N/A Tim Thompson releases Stevie (ST editor for VI enthusiasts), a limited vi clone for the Atari ST, posting the source on Usenet.[8][9]
June, 1988 N/A Tony Andrews improves Stevie, and ports it to Unix and OS/2, releasing version 3.10 on Usenet.[8]Cite error: A <ref> tag is missing the closing </ref> (see the help page). First public release for the Amiga on Fred Fish disk #591[10]
1992 1.22[3] Port to Unix. Vim now competes with vi. This was when Vim became Vi IMproved
August 12, 1994 3.0[3] Support for multiple windows
May 29, 1996 4.0[3][11] Graphical user interface
February 19, 1998 5.0[3][12] Syntax highlighting, basic scripting (user defined functions, commands, etc.)
April 6, 1998 5.1 Bug fixes, various improvements
April 27, 1998 5.2 Long line support, file browser, dialogs, popup menu, select mode, session files, user defined functions and commands, tcl interface, etc.
August 31, 1998 5.3 Bug fixes, etc.
July 25, 1999 5.4 Basic file encryption, various improvements
September 19, 1999 5.5 Bug fixes, various improvements
January 16, 2000 5.6 New syntax files, bug fixes, etc.
June 24, 2000 5.7 idem
May 31, 2001 5.8 idem
September 26, 2001 6.0[3][13] Folding, plugins, multi-language, etc.
March 24, 2002 6.1 Bug fixes
June 1, 2003 6.2 GTK2, Arabic language support, :try command, minor features, bug fixes
June 7, 2004 6.3 Bug fixes, translation updates, mark improvements
October 15, 2005 6.4 Bug fixes, updates to Perl, Python, and Ruby support
May 7, 2006 7.0 [14] Spell checking, code completion, tab pages (multiple viewports/window layouts), current line and column highlighting, undo branches, and more
May 12, 2007 7.1 Bug fixes, new syntax and runtime files, etc.
August 9, 2008 7.2 [15] Floating point support in scripts, refactored screen drawing code, bug fixes, new syntax files, etc.
August 15, 2010 7.3 Lua support, Python3 support, Blowfish encryption, persistent undo/redo

(Note that some dates are approximate,[16] development releases are not listed, and many minor version releases are not yet included in this list.)


Graphical Vim under GTK+ 2.

Like vi, Vim's interface is based not on menus or icons but on commands given in a text user interface; its GUI mode, gVim, adds menus and toolbars for commonly used commands but the full functionality is still expressed through its command line mode.

Vim has a built-in tutorial for beginners (accessible through the "vimtutor" command). There is also the Vim Users' Manual that details Vim's features. This manual can be read from within Vim, or found online.[17][18]

Vim also has a built-in help facility (using the :help command) that allows users to query and navigate through commands and features.

Modal editing[edit]

As a descendant of vi, Vim is modal—a design choice that tends to confuse new users not familiar with vi and unaware of insert-mode. Many editors are modal in the general sense of having to distinguish between insert-mode and command inputs, but most others implement that modality through very different methods: command menus (mouse or keyboard driven), meta keys (simultaneous use of multiple keys, usually involving control key (CTRL) or alt key (ALT)), and mouse input. Vim, following vi, is unique in that the entire keyboard is switched into and out of these modes. This allows, but does not require, one to perform all editing functions with no use of the mouse or menus and minimal use of meta keys. Touch-typists and those averse to the mouse do not have to move their fingers away from the home row, allowing them to manipulate the editor faster.


Part of Vim's power is that it can be extensively customized. The basic interface can be controlled by the many options available, and the user can define personalized key mappings—often called macros—or abbreviations to automate sequences of keystrokes, or even call internal or user defined functions.

Vim script[edit]

There are many plugins available that will extend or add new functionality to Vim. These complex scripts are usually written in Vim's internal scripting language vimscript.[19] Vim also supports scripting using MzScheme, Perl, Python, Ruby, Tcl, and other languages. As of Vim 7.3 Lua is also supported.


There are projects bundling together complex scripts and customizations and aimed at turning Vim into a tool for a specific task or adding a major flavour to its behaviour. Examples include Cream which makes Vim behave like a click-and-type editor or VimOutliner that provides a comfortable outliner for users of Unix-like systems.

Features and improvements over vi[edit]

Vim has a vi compatibility mode but when not in this mode Vim has many enhancements over vi.[20] However, even in compatibility mode, Vim is not 100% compatible with vi as defined in the Single Unix Specification[21] and POSIX (e.g., vim does not support vi's open mode, only visual mode). Vim has nevertheless been described as “very much compatible with Vi”.[22]

Some of Vim's enhancements include completion, comparison and merging of files (known as vimdiff), a comprehensive integrated help system, extended regular expressions, scripting languages (both native and through alternative scripting interpreters such as Perl, Python, Ruby, Tcl, etc.) including support for plugins, a graphical user interface (known as gvim), limited integrated development environment-like features, mouse interaction (both with and without the GUI), folding, editing of compressed or archived files in gzip, bzip2, zip, and tar format and files over network protocols such as SSH, FTP, and HTTP, session state preservation, spell checking, split (horizontal and vertical) and tabbed windows, unicode and other multi-language support, syntax highlighting, trans-session command, search, and cursor position histories, multiple level undo/redo history, and visual mode.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Vim in non-English languages". Retrieved 14 December 2010. 
  2. ^ "ICCF Holland - helping children in Uganda". ICCF Holland. Retrieved 2007-10-23. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f Cite error: The named reference history was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  4. ^ "Linux Journal: 2003 Readers' Choice Awards". 2003-11-01. Retrieved 2006-05-24. ; "Linux Journal: 2004 Readers' Choice Awards". 2004-11-01. Retrieved 2006-05-24. ; "Linux Journal: 2005 Readers' Choice Awards". 2005-09-28. Retrieved 2006-05-24. 
  5. ^ Vim documentation: uganda
  6. ^ ":help sys-file-list"
    "Vim Online: Downloads". Retrieved 2007-01-07. 
  7. ^ "Mac OS X Manual Page For vim(1)". Retrieved 2010-01-12. 
  8. ^ a b Thompson, Tim (2000-03-26). "Stevie". Retrieved 2010-12-27. 
  9. ^ Tim Thompson (1987-06-28). "A mini-vi for the ST". 129@glimmer.UUCP. Retrieved 2010-12-27. 
  10. ^
  11. ^ "Official Vim Manual, Version 4 summary". 2004-03-12. Retrieved 2008-08-06. 
  12. ^ "Official Vim Manual, Version 5 summary". 2004-01-17. Retrieved 2008-08-06. 
  13. ^ "Official Vim Manual, Version 6 summary". 2004-03-12. Retrieved 2008-08-06. 
  14. ^ "Official Vim Manual, Version 7 summary". 2006-05-10. Retrieved 2008-08-06. 
  15. ^
  16. ^ Dates were taken from the official Vim FTP site.
  17. ^ Vim manual at
  18. ^ Oualline, Steve (2001). Vi IMproved (VIM) (PDF). New Riders Publishers. ISBN 0-7357-1001-5.  Unknown parameter |month= ignored (help)
  19. ^ help vim-script-intro
  20. ^ Vim help system (type ":help" within vim)
  21. ^ The Open Group (2008), "vi - screen-oriented (visual) display editor", Single Unix Specification, Version 4 (IEEE Std 1003.1-2008), retrieved 2010-12-27 
  22. ^ Peppe, Benji, Charles Campbell (2004-01-02). "Vim FAQ". Retrieved 2010-12-27.  (question 1.3)

External links[edit]

Official Vim Resources

Text Tutorials

Video Tutorials

Other Vim Resources

Vim Ports/Variants

  • MacVim, a GUI version of vim for Mac OS X that supports multiple windows with tabbed editing and a host of other features.

Category:Unix text editors Category:Windows text editors Category:Mac OS text editors Category:Mac OS X text editors Category:OpenVMS text editors Category:Free text editors Category:Termcap Category:Free software programmed in C Category:Cross-platform software Category:Linux text editors Category:Free file comparison tools