Vim (text editor)

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Vim running in a terminal emulator
Original author(s) Bram Moolenaar
Initial release 2 November 1991
(24 years ago)
Stable release 8.0.0022 (3 October 2016; 18 days ago (2016-10-03)) [±]
Preview release 7.4b.000 (28 July 2013; 3 years ago (2013-07-28)) [±]
Written in C, Vim script
Operating system Unix, Linux, Windows NT, OS X, iOS, Android, AmigaOS
Available in English, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Persian, Polish, Russian, Spanish[2]
Type Text editor
License Free software (Vim License), charityware

Vim (/vɪm/;[3] a contraction of Vi IMproved) is a clone of Bill Joy's vi text editor program for Unix. It was written by Bram Moolenaar based on source for a port of the Stevie editor to the Amiga[4] and first released publicly in 1991. Vim is designed for use both from a command-line interface and as a standalone application in a graphical user interface. Vim is free and open source software and is released under a license that 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.

Although Vim was originally released for the Amiga, Vim has since been developed to be cross-platform, supporting many other platforms. In 2006, it was voted the most popular editor amongst Linux Journal readers;[6] in 2015 the Stack Overflow developer survey found it to be the third most popular text editor;[7] and in 2016 the Stack Overflow developer survey found it to be the fourth most popular development environment.[8]


Bram Moolenaar began working on Vim for the Amiga computer in 1988. Moolenaar first publicly released Vim (v1.14) in 1991.[9] Vim was based on an earlier editor, Stevie, for the Atari ST,[1] created by Tim Thompson, Tony Andrews, and G.R. (Fred) Walter.[10][11][discuss]

The name "Vim" is an acronym for "Vi IMproved"[12] 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 changed with the release of Vim 2.0 in December 1993.[13] A later comment states that the reason for changing the name was that Vim's feature set surpassed that of vi.[14]

Release history
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.[15][16]
June, 1988 N/A Tony Andrews improves Stevie, and ports it to Unix and OS/2, releasing version 3.10 on Usenet.[15][17]
1988 1.0 Bram Moolenaar creates Vi IMitation for the Amiga, based on Stevie, never publicly released
November 2, 1991 1.14[14] First public release for the Amiga on Fred Fish disk #591[18]
1992 1.22[14] Port to Unix. Vim now competes with vi.
December 14, 1993 2.0[13] This is the first release using the name Vi IMproved.
August 12, 1994 3.0[14] Support for multiple windows
May 29, 1996 4.0[14][19] Graphical user interface
February 19, 1998 5.0[14][20] 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 New syntax files, bug fixes, etc.
May 31, 2001 5.8 New syntax files, bug fixes, etc.
September 26, 2001 6.0[14][21] 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[22] 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[23] 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
August 10, 2013 7.4[24] A new, faster regular expression engine.
September 12, 2016 8.0[25] Asynchronous I/O support, jobs, lambdas, etc.


Graphical Vim (gVim) under GTK+ 2.

Like vi, Vim's interface is not based 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. Vi (and by extension Vim) tends to allow a typist to keep their fingers on the home row, which can be an advantage for a touch typist.[26]

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.[27][28]

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


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.

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.[29] Vim also supports scripting using Lua (as of Vim 7.3), Perl, Python, Racket[30] (formerly PLT Scheme), Ruby, and Tcl.

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, which 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.[31] However, even in compatibility mode, Vim is not entirely compatible with vi as defined in the Single Unix Specification[32] 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".[33]

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 and branching undo/redo history which can persist across editing sessions, and visual mode.

Vim script[edit]

Vim script (also called vimscript or VimL) is the scripting language built into Vim.[34] Based on the ex editor language of the original vi editor, early versions of Vim added commands for control flow and function definitions. Since version 7, Vim script also supports more advanced data types such as lists and dictionaries and (a simple form of) object-oriented programming. Built-in functions such as map() and filter() allow a basic form of functional programming, and Vim script has lambda since version 8.0. Vim script is mostly written in an imperative programming style.

Vim macros can contain a sequence of normal-mode commands, but can also invoke ex commands or functions written in Vim script for more complex tasks. Almost all extensions (called plugins or more commonly scripts) of the core Vim functionality are written in Vim script, but plugins can also utilize other interpreted languages like Perl, Python, Lua, or Ruby (if support for them is compiled into the Vim binary).

Vim script files are stored in plain text format and the file name extension is .vim. There are libraries for Vim script available on as Vim plugins.


" This is a simple while loop in Vim script.
let i = 1
while i < 5
  echo "count is " i
  let i += 1


Whereas vi was originally available only on Unix operating systems, Vim has been ported to many operating systems including AmigaOS (the initial target platform), Atari MiNT, BeOS, DOS, Windows starting from Windows 95, OS/2, OS/390, MorphOS, OpenVMS, QNX, RISC OS, GNU/Linux, BSD, and Classic Mac OS.[35] Also, Vim is shipped with every copy of Apple macOS.[36]

Independent ports of Vim are available both for Android[37] and iOS.[38]


Neovim[39] is a refactor of Vim, that strives to be a superset of Vim.[40] Neovim shares the same configuration syntax with Vim; as a result, the same config file can be used with both editors.[41] As of version 0.1, released in December 2015, Neovim is compatible with almost all of Vim's features.[42]

The Neovim project was started in 2014, with some Vim community members offering early support of the high-level refactoring effort to provide better scripting, plugins, and integration with modern GUIs.[43][44] Neovim had a successful fundraiser on March 23, 2014,[45] supporting at least one full-time developer. Several frontends are under development, making use of Neovim's capabilities.[46][47]

The Neovim editor is available in Ubuntu's PPAs,[48] and several other package managers,[49] making it possible to install on a variety of Linux-based operating systems.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Paul, Ryan (2011-11-02). "Two decades of productivity: Vim's 20th anniversary". Ars Technica. Retrieved 2011-11-04. 
  2. ^ "Vim in non-English languages". Retrieved 14 December 2010. 
  3. ^ Vim documentation: intro: "Vim is pronounced as one word, like Jim, not vi-ai-em. It's written with a capital, since it's a name, again like Jim."
  4. ^ Zapletal, Lukáš (April 18, 2005), "Interview: Bram Moolenaar", LinuxEXPRES: 21–22, retrieved February 5, 2015, Is VIM derivate of other VI clone or you started from scratch? I started with Stevie. This was a Vi clone for the Atari ST computer, ported to the Amiga. It had quite a lot of problems and could not do everything that Vi could, but since the source code was available I could fix that myself. (English translation) 
  5. ^ Vim documentation: uganda
  6. ^ "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. 
  7. ^ "Stack Overflow Developer Survey 2015 § IV. Text Editor". Stack Overflow. Retrieved July 25, 2016. 
  8. ^ "Stack Overflow Developer Survey 2016 Results". Stack Overflow § VII. Development Environments. Retrieved July 25, 2016. 
  9. ^
  10. ^ Vim (20 January 2015). "intro.txt". Vim Help. Vim. Archived from the original on 9 July 2016. Retrieved 9 July 2016. 
  11. ^ "vim(1)". Vim. 11 April 2006. Archived from the original on 9 July 2016. Retrieved 9 July 2016. Vim is based on Stevie, worked on by: Tim Thompson, Tony Andrews and G.R. (Fred) Walter. Although hardly any of the original code remains. 
  12. ^ "ICCF Holland — helping children in Uganda". ICCF Holland. Retrieved 2007-10-23. 
  13. ^ a b "Filewatcher". Retrieved February 26, 2011. 
  14. ^ a b c d e f g Moolenaar, Bram (2002-01-15). "Vim, an open-source text editor". Retrieved 2005-10-24. 
  15. ^ a b Thompson, Tim (2000-03-26). "Stevie". Retrieved 2010-12-27. 
  16. ^ Tim Thompson (1987-06-28). "A mini-vi for the ST". Usenet: 129@glimmer.UUCP. Retrieved 2010-12-27. 
  17. ^ Tony Andrews (1988-06-06). "v15i037: Stevie, an "aspiring" VI clone for Unix, OS/2, Amiga". Newsgroupcomp.sources.unix. Usenet: Retrieved 2010-12-27. 
  18. ^
  19. ^ "Official Vim Manual, Version 4 summary". 2004-03-12. Retrieved 2008-08-06. 
  20. ^ "Official Vim Manual, Version 5 summary". 2004-01-17. Retrieved 2008-08-06. 
  21. ^ "Official Vim Manual, Version 6 summary". 2004-03-12. Retrieved 2008-08-06. 
  22. ^ "Official Vim Manual, Version 7 summary". 2006-05-10. Retrieved 2008-08-06. 
  23. ^
  24. ^ Google Discussiegroepen. Retrieved on 2013-12-09.
  25. ^ Bram Moolenaar. "Vim 8.0 released!". Retrieved September 12, 2016. 
  26. ^ Lamb, Linda; Robbins, Arnold (1998). Learning the Vi Editor. O'Reilly Media, Inc. p. 305. ISBN 9781565924260. 
  27. ^ Vim manual at
  28. ^ Oualline, Steve (April 2001). Vi IMproved (VIM) (PDF). New Riders Publishers. ISBN 0-7357-1001-5. 
  29. ^ help vim-script-intro
  30. ^ "Vim documentation: if_mzsch". 11 February 2010. 
  31. ^ Vim help system (type ":help" within Vim)
  32. ^ The Open Group (2008), "vi — screen-oriented (visual) display editor", Single Unix Specification, Version 4 (IEEE Std 1003.1-2008), retrieved 2010-12-27 
  33. ^ Peppe, Benji, Charles Campbell (2004-01-02). "Vim FAQ". Retrieved 2010-12-27.  (question 1.3)
  34. ^
  35. ^ ":help sys-file-list"
    "Vim Online: Downloads". Retrieved 2007-01-07. 
  36. ^ "Mac OS X Manual Page For vim(1)". Apple Inc. Retrieved 2010-01-12. 
  37. ^ "VimTouch". Retrieved 11 August 2015. 
  38. ^ "Vim - Applidium, mobile agency in Paris". Retrieved 2015-08-11. 
  39. ^ "Neovim: vim, out of the box". 
  40. ^ "Neovim Vision". 
  41. ^ "Switching to NeoVim". 
  42. ^ "How to start using Neovim instead of Vim". 
  43. ^ "Neovim: Rebuilding Vim For the 21st Century". 
  44. ^ " blog post". 
  45. ^ "Bountysource fundraiser". 
  46. ^ "NyaoVim frontend". 
  47. ^ "Mac OS X frontend". 
  48. ^ "Neovim PPA information". 
  49. ^ "Neovim wiki: installation instructions". 

External links[edit]