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vi editor FAQ (Frequently Asked Question List), Part 2/2

( Part1 - Part2 )
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Archive-name: editor-faq/vi/part2
Posting-Frequency: every fifteen days
Last-modified: 2007-06-06
Version: 1.93

See reader questions & answers on this topic! - Help others by sharing your knowledge
5.0 - What's online at the vi archives?

  There is a FAQ posted frequently which gives a list of all the files
that are online at the vi archive.  It also gives a list of addresses
which mirror the vi archive.  The main address is, but it is
archived at many, many sites.  The vi-archive faq lists all of them.
Please check that faq before ftping to it, as there is almost definitely
a closer and therefore faster site to you than the one in Norway.
  A few mirrors are:  <>.
  The site has many, many files on vi, including a few clones.  It also
has the UCB distribution of vi, and lots of useful macros.  Check it

6.0 - Silly vi tricks, and silly macros

  This section is for silly vi tricks, and silly macros.  Actually, any
interesting vi tricks and macros are acceptable, as long as they are
not too lengthy.  I will add any that are suggested to me that I think
are reasonable.

6.1 - Silly vi tricks
  Note: Also check out the Silly macros down below. Many macros and
tricks are interchangeable.

  xp     This will delete the character under the cursor, and put it
afterwards.  In other words, it swaps the location of two characters.
  ddp    Similar to xp, but swapping lines.
  yyp    duplicate a line

  uu     Undo and redo last change.  (This will take you to the last
modification to the file without changing anything.)  You can also use
this to compare the changes to a line.  Make the changes to the line,
press U to undo the changes to the current line, and then press u to
toggle between the two versions.

         This will reverse the order of the lines in the current file.
m0 is the ex command to move the line to line 0.

  :v/./d or :g/^$/d 
         Removes all blank lines.

  :g/^[ <ctrl-v><tab>]*$/d
         Removes all lines that only have whitespace.

         Replaces multiple blank lines with just one blank line.

6.2 - Silly macros
  Note:  <ctrl-x> means hold down control, and hit x.

  Swap character and one vertically above:
    map * kxjphxkP

  Fold a line that's too long
    map g $80<ctrl-v><ctrl-v>|F r<ctrl-v><enter>

  Change case on most words
    map v ywmno<ctrl-v><esc>P:s/./\~/g<ctrl-v><enter>0"nDdd`n@n

  Put `and' around the current word
    map *` i`<ctrl-v><esc>ea'<ctrl-v><esc>

  Put 'and' around the current word
    map *' i'<ctrl-v><esc>ea'<ctrl-v><esc>

  Put "and" around the current word
    map *" i"<ctrl-v><esc>ea"<ctrl-v><esc>

  Put `and' around the current word
    map! `` <ctrl-v><esc>bi`<ctrl-v><esc>ea'

  Split a line at the cursor, and put a > at the beginning of the next
line.  (For quoting Usenet, etc). I had some trouble with my old
version of this under some versions, so I've redone it, and I think
that it should work.
    map g may0O<ctrl-v><esc>P`ao<ctrl-v><esc>P:s/./ /g<ctrl-v><enter>0i><ctrl-v><esc>$mb`ay$`bP'add

  Insert one character
    map g i$<ctrl-v><esc>r

  Format a paragraph without the fmt program.  (To use, use J a few
times, then this a few times)
    map K 072lBhr<ctrl-v><enter>

  Or, a little less elegantly, but without the need to use J and K
multiple times.
    map K {wma}b:'a,.j<ctrl-v><enter>:s/\(.........................................................\)/\1<ctrl-v><ctrl-v><ctrl-v><enter>/g<ctrl-v><enter>

  Make ctrl-x work as cut, ctrl-v as paste, ctrl-p as copy.  You should
mark the beginning of the area as m (use mm).  (ctrl-c cannot be
remapped when it is defined as the interrupt character in Unix.)
    map <ctrl-v><ctrl-x> "zd`m
    map <ctrl-v><ctrl-p> "zy`m
    map <ctrl-v><ctrl-v><ctrl-v><ctrl-v> "zP`m

  Save a read-only file.  Careful, it changes the permissions. When
done, it changes them to read/write owner, read for everyone else. Note
that this might not be the same as the original permissions.
    map K :!chmod 666 %<ctrl-v><enter>:w!<ctrl-v><enter><ctrl-v><enter>
    :!chmod 644 %<ctrl-v><enter>

  vi status line (sort of...) [Note:  It's slow...]
    map <ctrl-v><up-arrow> k<ctrl-v><ctrl-g>
    map <ctrl-v><down-arrow> j<ctrl-v><ctrl-g>
    map k k<ctrl-v><ctrl-g>
    map j j<ctrl-v><ctrl-g>
    map <ctrl-v><ctrl-f> <ctrl-v><ctrl-f><ctrl-v><ctrl-g>
    map <ctrl-v><ctrl-b> <ctrl-v><ctrl-b><ctrl-v><ctrl-g>
    map H H<ctrl-v><ctrl-g>
    map M M<ctrl-v><ctrl-g>
    map L L<ctrl-v><ctrl-g>
    map G G<ctrl-v><ctrl-g>
    map <ctrl-v><ctrl-u> <ctrl-v><ctrl-u><ctrl-v><ctrl-g>
    map <ctrl-v><ctrl-d> <ctrl-v><ctrl-d><ctrl-v><ctrl-g>

  center a line
    map = 080i <ctrl-v><esc>$78hd0^D:s/  / /g<ctrl-v><enter>$p

  redefine tab to insert 5 spaces instead of a tab marker
    map! <ctrl-v><ctrl-i> <space><space><space><space><space>

  switch current and last line (repeat to reverse a file)
    map v Gdd''Pj

  yank until end of line, run it in a shell and read in the result
    map v y$o<ctrl-v><esc>pI:r!<ctrl-v><esc>"add@a

  allow vi to backspace over text that was inserted in a previous
insert mode
   map! <ctrl-v><ctrl-?> $<ctrl-v><esc>Xs
   map! <ctrl-v><ctrl-h> $<ctrl-v><esc>Xs

  print the document to the default printer (for BSD replace lp with lpr).
   map v 1G!Glp<ctrl-v><enter>u

  set # to toggle line numbers on and off:
   map \o# o:se nu<ctrl-v><enter>:se nonu<ctrl-v><esc>-:map \o# "wp<ctrl-v><enter>
   map \d# "w2dd
   map \x# "xdd@x"xpk
   map # ma3L\o#\x#\d#`a:<ctrl-v><enter>
  Quote the current paragraph with '>'s.
   map Z> mc{jma}kmb:'a,'bs/^ /> /<ctrl-v><enter>'c

  Allow <ctrl-z> to suspend processes within insert mode
   map! <ctrl-v><ctrl-z> <ctrl-v<esc>:stop<ctrl-v><enter>
  Make all tabs spaces
   map! <ctrl-v><ctrl-v><ctrl-v><ctrl-i> <ctrl-v><ctrl-v><space>

  Replace all tabs with the proper amount of spaces for the given
  tabstop. Removing the last two character (4<enter>) will allow you to
  specify the tabstop: #t4<enter>
   map #t 1G!Gpr -t -e4<ctrl-v><enter>
   map #T !}pr -t -e4<ctrl-v><enter>}

  Insert a ruler above the current line
   map #r O<ctrl-v><esc>i....+....1....+....2....+....3....+....4....+....5....+....6....+....7....+....8<ctrl-v><esc>

  This is a macro that redefines itself: (more for heuristic reasons
than anything else) It inserts foo the first time it is run, and bar
all subsequent times. 
  map K ifoo<ctrl-v><esc>:map K ibar<ctrl-v><ctrl-v><ctrl-v><esc><ctrl-v><enter>

  This makes end notes. It will insert a [#] at the current location
and put a [#] at the bottom of the document and let you type there.
Hitting `a will take you back to the original location once you are
done with your end note. [#] will be the number of the end note, not
the literal # character. (Pretty crazy, huh?)
   map K ma1GO[0]<ctrl-v><esc>G$?\[[0-9]*\]<ctrl-v><enter>lyt]`aa<ctrl-v><enter><ctrl-v><esc>O<ctrl-v><esc>pI:r!echo '1 <ctrl-v><esc>A + p' <ctrl-v><ctrl-v>| dc<ctrl-v><ctrl-v><ctrl-v><ctrl-v><ctrl-v><ctrl-v><ctrl-v><enter><ctrl-v><esc>0"yD@y0i[<ctrl-v><esc>A]<ctrl-v><esc>kkJJJmb1Gdd`bF[yf]Go<ctrl-v><esc>pA   

7.0 - Alphabetical vi quick reference

  ... means that something needs to be specified before or after the
  command, as appropriate.  This is normally a cursor movement 
  key (h,j,k,l,w,b, etc.) or a line number.

  #  (where # is a number) following command n times...  
  :  go to ex-mode 
  )  next sentence 
  (  previous sentence 
  }  next paragraph 
  {  previous paragraph 
 ]]  next section 
 [[  previous section
  0  beginning of line 
  $  end of line 
  ^  first non-whitespace character
  +  first character of next line 
  -  first character of previous line 
(spacebar) next character 
(return) next line 
  /  search forward 
  ? search backward 
  %  find match of current parenthesis, brace, or bracket 
  ,  reverse direction of last f, F, t, or T 
  ;  repeat last f, F, t, or T
  .  repeat last command
  `  goto mark 
  '  goto beginning of line with mark 
 ``  return to previous mark or location before a search 
 ''  go to start of line of previous mark or location before search
  ~  switch case of current character
  "  store in register 
  @  execute command in register
  !  send next to command, replace output (eg  !}fmt passes the current
       paragraph to the command fmt, and replaces the output with
       whatever fmt returns.) 
 !!  send line to command
 >>  shift line one shiftwidth to the right 
 <<  shift line one shiftwidth to the left 
 >%  shift until matching (, [, or { to the right 
 <%  shift until matching (, [, or { to the left
  a  append after the current location 
  A  append at the end of the line
 ^a  unused
  b  beginning of previous word 
  B  beginning of previous word, ignore punctuation 
 ^b  scroll back one screen
  c  change until...  
  C  change to end of line 
 ^c  ends insert mode, unused in command mode (if defined as interrupt)
  d  delete until...  
  D  delete to end of line 
 ^d  scroll down half a window, moves to previous shiftwidth in insert
  e  end of word 
  E  end of word, ignore punctuation 
 ^e  scroll screen down one line
  f  find...  
  F  find backward...  
 ^f  scroll forward one screen
  g  unused 
  G  ...Goto  [defaults to end of file] 
 ^g  show status line
  h  left 
  H  first line on screen 
 ^h  backspace in insert mode, left in command mode
  i  insert before current location 
  I  insert before first non-whitespace character on line 
 ^i  tab in insert, unused in command
  j  down 
  J  join next line with current line 
 ^j  down in command, create newline in insert
  k  up 
  K  unused 
 ^k  unused
  l  right 
  L  last line on screen 
 ^l  redraw screen
  m  mark position into register 
  M  middle of screen 
 ^m  carriage return
  n  repeat last search 
  N  repeat last search, reverse direction 
 ^n down in command
  o  open line below current 
  O  open line above current 
 ^o  unused
  p  put below current line 
  P  put above current line 
 ^p  up in command
  q  unused 
  Q  quit and run ex 
 ^q  unused
  r  replace current character 
  R  replace characters until insert mode is left 
 ^r  redraw screen in command mode
  s  substitute 
  S  substitute entire line 
 ^s  unused
  t  to...  
  T  backward to...  
 ^t  moves to next shiftwidth.
  u  undo last change 
  U  undo changes to current line 
 ^u  scroll up half a window
  v  unused 
  V  unused 
 ^v  unused in command, quotes next character in insert
  w  beginning of next word 
  W  beginning of next word, ignore punctuation 
 ^w  unused in command, in insert move back to beginning of previous
  x  delete current character 
  X  delete previous character 
 ^x  unused
  y  yank...  
  Y  yank current line 
 ^y  scroll screen up one line
  z  reposition screen around line (Return to top of screen, . to 
       middle, - to bottom) 
 ZZ  write (only if changes have been made) and quit 
 ^z  unused

7.1 - Command mode input options ( : commands)

  (Note: this is not a canonical list, just some of the more important

 :r <file>       read <file> into current text 
 :r !<command>   read output from command <command> into current text 
 :nr <file>      read in at line number 
 :!<file>        run command, return 
 :sh             goto shell 
 :so <file>      read and execute commands from <file>
 :x              write (only if changes have been made) and quit 
 :wq             write and quit 
 :l1,l2w <file>  write between lines l1 and l2 to <file>.  If <file> 
                   is not specified, assume current.  If l1,l2 not 
                   specified, assume entire file (making it :w)
 :w >> <file>    append to <file>.  May use line numbers
 :w!             overwrite current file 
 :q              quit
 :q!             quit, forget changes 
 :e <file>       edit <file> without leaving vi 
 :e!             forget changes since last write
 :n              edit next file 
 :e +n <file>    edit <file> at line n, if no end, assume end of file 
 :n <files>      specify <files> as new list of files to edit 
 :e#             edit alternate file (if :e <file> is used, alternate is
		   the original file)
 :args           show files to be edited 
 :rew            rewind list of files to top 
 :map m n        create a macro (make m do n) 
 :map! m n       create an insert mode macro (make m do n) 
 :unmap m        destroy macro m 
 :unmap! m       destroy insert mode macro m 
 :ab <1> <2>     abbreviate - replace <1> with <2> whenever typed as 
                   a word
 :unab <1>       unabbreviate <1> 
 :cd <directory> cd to <directory>
 :set <option>   set <option>...

7.2 - set options

The abbreviations in parenthesis may be used.  Syntax:

  :set <option> <param>   (If <param> is expected) 
  Multiple options may be specified on one line.  
  :set <option>? displays the value of the <option> 
  :set all displays the value of all the options.  
For options without a value, set no<option> turns it off.

Option:             Default:           What it does:

autoindent (ai)     noai               Makes new lines automatically
                                         indent to the position as the 
                                         line above or below
autoprint (ap)      ap                 Display changes after each 
autowrite (aw)      noaw               Automatically save file 
                                         before :n, :!  
beautify (bf)       nobf               Ignore all control characters
                                         during input (except tab, 
                                         newline, formfeed)
directory= (dir=)   /tmp               Name of the directory to store 
edcompatible        noedcompatible     Use ed-like features on 
errorbells (eb)     errorbells         Sound bell on error
exrc (ex)           noexrc             Allow .exrc files outside home 
hardtabs= (ht=)     8                  Set boundary for hardware tabs 
ignore case (ic)    noic               Ignore case in regex expressions 
lisp                nolisp             Turn on lisp mode
list                nolist             Display all tabs, end of lines
magic               magic              Enable more regex expressions
mesg                mesg               Allows mesgs to be sent to 
number (nu)         nonumber           Displays line numbers in file 
open                open               Allows open and visual
optimize (opt)      optimize           Optimizes throughput of text by 
                                         not sending carriage returns 
                                         when printing text
paragraphs= (para=) IPLPPPQPPLIbp      Sets the delimiters for { & }
prompt              prompt             Command mode input gives : prompt 
readonly (ro)       noro               Cannot write unless ! is given  
redraw              noredraw           Redraw screen when edits are made 
remap               remap              Allows macros that point to other
report=             5                  Report changes if they effect > x
scroll              1/2 window         Amount of screen to scroll when
					 scroll down is received in
					 command mode.  Also, number of
					 lines printer by z.  (z prints
sections=           SHNHH HU           Defines end of section for [[ 
                                         and ]] 
shell= (sh=)        /bin/sh            Default shell.  Uses SHELL
					 environment, if set
shiftwidth= (sw=)   8                  Characters to shift when using
					 shift commands
showmatch (sm)      nosm               Show matching {, }, (, ), [, or ] 
showmode            noshowmode         Shows which mode you are in.
slowopen (slow)                        Do not update display 
                                         immediately after insert
tabstop= (ts=)      8                  Sets tabstop length 
taglength= (tl=)    0                  Number of characters significant
                                         for tags (0 means all 
tags=               tag, /usr/lib/tags Define pathname of files 
                                         containing tags.
term=                                  Set the terminal type
terse               noterse            Display shorter error messages
timeout (to)        timeout            Keyboard maps timeout after one 
ttytype=                               Set the terminal type
warn                warn               Display "No write since last 
                                         change" messages
window= (w=)                           Number of lines in window in visual
wrapmargin= (wm=)   0                  Set the right margin.  Greater 
                                         than 0 will word wrap n spaces
                                         from the edge of the screen
wrapscan (ws)       ws                 Searches wrap around end of file
writeany (wa)       nowa               Allow saving to any file

8.0 - Setting up .exrc file

  Any commands that can be used in command input mode ( : commands),
may be used in a .exrc, which will load automatically whenever you
start vi.  In addition, the source command (so), abbreviations (ab),
and macros may be used.  There may not be any blank lines in your
.exrc.  A " in the first column may be used to tell vi that what
follows is a comment.

8.1 - Sample .exrc file

  This .exrc file is a real one.  Mine.  Because of that, it doesn't
set as many options as one might wish it did to get a good idea of what
may be used.  However, it should get the basic idea down, and it is
quite straightforward. 

First, note that you do not need to specify the :, it is assumed.

" Ignore case on search
set ic
" set wordwrap 9 characters from the right
set wm=9
" show matching parenthesis
set sm
" set the shell to be zsh
set sh=/nfs/kimbark/k4/ellidz/bin/zsh
" a few abbreviations for my email addresses
ab zdille E. Larry Lidz -
ab --l -Larry
" uppercase V will run ispell -x (-x tells it not to save backups) on current
" file
map V :w<ctrl-v><enter>:!ispell -x %<ctrl-v><enter>:e!<ctrl-v><enter><ctrl-v><enter>
" = will center the line...  if I can get it to work
map = 80I <ctrl-v><esc>$78hd0:s/  / /g<ctrl-v><enter>$p
" v will reformat the current paragraph
map v {0!}fmt<ctrl-v><enter>
" Splits a line in two at current cursor location, puts a > at the
"beginning of the line
map g may0O<ctrl-v><esc>P`ay$:s/./ /g<ctrl-v><enter>0i><ctrl-v><esc>`aPa <ctrl-v><esc>D
" Change the case on the current word
map K ywmno<ctrl-v><ctrl-v><ctrl-v><esc>P:s/./\~/g<ctrl-v><ctrl-v><ctrl-v><enter>0"nDdd`n@n

9.0 - Bugs in vi

  I'd like to say that vi is bug free, but unfortunately, it's not.
These bugs are bugs in the original vi, not necessarily in any of the
different clones.
  Macros for _ do not always work properly.
  #~ does not work under AIX

  The left and right hand side of macro definitions can be at most 100
characters. If they're more than 100 characters it doesn't give a
decent error message -- it either says that it is too dangerous to map
or that the rhs is missing.

10.0 - Glossary of terms

  This glossary will be updated as people suggest terms that they do
not understand.  Please let me know if you have any suggestions.

  command mode 
    Command mode is the mode within vi where the user gives commands to
vi.  (Including cursor movement commands, editing commands, etc.)

    A non-visual editor under Unix.

    The escape key.  A key on a keyboard normally marked by escape.
Sometimes ^[ will work in its place.  If there is no escape key,
sometimes the Meta key will work.

    An editor under Unix, all commands preceded with : are passed to

  insert mode 
    Insert mode is the mode within vi where text is inserted into the

    A macro is a shortcut key combination.  For example, a macro allows
one to hit one letter and have it execute a few different commands.

  open mode 
    Open mode is the mode that vi will start in if it cannot determine
your terminal type, or if it believes you have a hardware or glass-tube

  regular expressions (RegEx) (RE)
    Regular expressions, commonly known as "RegEx" or "REs" are a set
of key combinations that are meant to allow people to have a large
variety of control over what they are searching for.  RegEx is used a
lot under Unix, and is common between many programs.

    Stream editor.  An editor that has no interface.  All commands
are given from the command line.

    The editor to which this FAQ is dedicated.

11.0 - Bibliography of Books that cover vi
  Specialized System Consultants, Inc.
  P.O. Box 55549
  Seattle, WA 98155

  Unix Programming Tools,
  Eric Foster-Johnson
  M and T Books, 1997.
  ISBN 1-55851-482-1
  Includes a CD-ROM containing vim.

  The ULTIMATE GUIDE to the VI and EX Text Editors
  Hewlett Packard Company (authors)
  The Benjamin/Cummings Publishing Company, Inc.
  ISBN 0-8053-4460-8

  Mark G. Sobell
  Benjamin Cummings Publisher

  Linda Lamb
  O'Reilly & Associates
  ISBN 0-937175-67-6

  Unix POWER TOOLS  (particularly for macros)
  O'Reilly & Associates

  Jeffrey Friedl
  O'Reilly & Associates, 1997
  ISBN 1-56592-257-3

  Hayden Books, 1987
  Dale Dougherty and Tim O'Reilly
  ISBN 0-8104-6291-5

  An Introduction to Display Editing with Vi' & 'EX reference Manual' in 
  Unix programmers Manual vol. II
  Bill Joy
  Berkeley Software

  Vi iMproved (VIM)
  Steve Oualline
  New Riders
  ISBN 0735710015
  RA-MA Editorial.

  Please make suggestions as to what books are most useful for learning
vi.  I will add books to this section as people suggest them to me.

Copyright, E. Larry Lidz, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001,
2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007.  
All Rights Reserved.

User Contributions:

Comment about this article, ask questions, or add new information about this topic:

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