Vim (text editor)

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File:Vimlogo.png  File:Vim gloss 128.png
Graphical Vim under GTK+ 2
Original author(s) Bram Moolenaar
Initial release Template:Release year
Written in C and Vim script
Platform Cross-platform,including Unix, Linux and Microsoft Windows
Available in English, Chinese, French, Italian, Polish, Russian[1]
Type Text editor
License Free software, charityware

Vim is a text editor released by Bram Moolenaar in 1991 for the Amiga computer. The name "Vim" is an acronym for "Vi IMproved"[2] because Vim was created as an extended version of the vi editor, with many additional features designed to be helpful in editing program source code.

Vim is cross-platform. It is the most popular editor amongst Linux Journal readers.[3]

Released under a software license compatible with the GNU General Public License, Vim is free and open source software. The program's license includes some charityware clauses, encouraging users who enjoy the software to consider donating to children in Uganda.[4]



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 (accessed through the "vimtutor" command). There is also the Vim Users' Manual that details the basic and more advanced Vim features. This manual can be read from within Vim, or found online.[5][6]

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

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. For touch-typists and those averse to the mouse, this means they will 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

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.[7] Vim also supports scripting using MzScheme, Perl, Python, Ruby, Tcl, and other languages.


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

Vim is almost fully vi compatible when in compatible mode, but Vim has many enhancements over vi which may or may not be available in compatible mode.[8]

Some of those 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.


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, IBM OS/2 and OS/390, MorphOS, OpenVMS, QNX, RISC OS, Unix, Linux, BSD, and Mac OS[9]. In addition, Vim is shipped with every copy of Apple Mac OS X.[10]

Release history

Date Version Changes and additions
1988 1.0 Based on Stevie for the Amiga, named Vi IMitation, never publicly released
November 2, 1991 1.14[11] First public release for the Amiga on Fred Fish disk #591[12]
1992 1.22[11] Port to Unix. Vim now competes with vi. This was when Vim became Vi IMproved
August 12, 1994 3.0[11] Support for multiple windows
May 29, 1996 4.0[11][13] Graphical user interface
February 19, 1998 5.0[11][14] 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[11][15] 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 [16] 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 [17] Floating point support in scripts, refactored screen drawing code, bug fixes, new syntax files, etc.

(Note that some dates are approximate,[18] development releases are not listed, and many minor version releases are not yet included in this list.)

See also


  1. "Vim in non-English languages". Retrieved 2008-02-04. 
  2. "ICCF Holland - helping children in Uganda". ICCF Holland. Retrieved 2007-10-23. 
  3. "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. 
  4. Vim documentation: uganda
  5. Vim manual at
  6. Oualline, Steve (April 2001). Vi IMproved (VIM). New Riders Publishers. ISBN 0-7357-1001-5. 
  7. help vim-script-intro
  8. Vim help system (type ":help" within vim)
  9. ":help sys-file-list"
    "Vim Online: Downloads". Retrieved 2007-01-07. 
  10. "Mac OS X Manual Page For vim(1)". Retrieved 2010-01-12. 
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 11.4 11.5 Moolenaar, Bram (2002-01-15). "Vim, an open-source text editor". Retrieved 2005-10-24. 
  13. "Official Vim Manual, Version 4 summary". 2004-03-12. Retrieved 2008-08-06. 
  14. "Official Vim Manual, Version 5 summary". 2004-01-17. Retrieved 2008-08-06. 
  15. "Official Vim Manual, Version 6 summary". 2004-03-12. Retrieved 2008-08-06. 
  16. "Official Vim Manual, Version 7 summary". 2006-05-10. Retrieved 2008-08-06. 
  18. Dates were taken from the official Vim FTP site.

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